via @Grassroots_News: Meet the private prison industry’s lobbyists who could shape immigration reform
reposted from Grassroots Leadership, written by Piper Madison
In the last two years, major private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group have spent at least $4,350,000 on lobbying the federal government, primarily to win immigration-related contracts. What does that kind of money buy you? Some pretty lucrative contracts, apparently. In 2011, the federal government paid $1.4 billion to the two corporations, nearly a third of their total profits.
In fact, a 2011 report by Grassroots Leadership and Detention Watch Network found that private prison corporations operate nearly half of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds. What’s more, private prison corporations are benefiting greatly from the criminalization of migration through programs like Operation Streamline.
It’s no surprise – or secret – that immigration reform which reduces detentions and deportations would be a threat to private prison corporations’ business. Business Insider reported on February 2nd that in 2011, GEO Group CEO George Zoley told investors:
“At the federal level, initiatives related to border enforcement and immigration detention with an emphasis on criminal alien populations as well as the consolidation of existing detainee populations have continued to create demand for larger-scale, cost efficient facilities.”
That same year, CCA stated in its annual earnings report that immigration reform
“could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”
So who are these wealthy private prison corporations looking to to win them immigration detention contracts? Below the jump are just some of the some the major lobbyists for private prison interests in Washington:
1. Bart Velhulst, Jeremy Wiley, and Kelli Cheever, CCA’s in-house lobbyists, were paid $1,070,000 in 2011 and $980,000 in 2012. They lobbied on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, particularly on “provisions related to ICE detention; as well as the House of Representatives and the Senate on homeland security issues related to the private prison industry.
2. Lionel Aguirre, the well-connected Texan we’ve profiled before, earned $360,000 in 2011-2012 peddling GEO Group to the Department of Homeland Security, ICE, the United States Marshalls, and the House of Representatives. In 2011, he also lobbied the Department of Transportation, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Justice.
3. Christopher Cox, Kyle Kizzier, and Danielle Burr (of lobbying firmNavigators Global, LLC) were paid $220,000 by GEO (2011-2012) to represent their interests in appropriations for DHS and ICE, specifically on “Issues Related to Alternatives to Detention.” ICE’s budget for detention is $2 billion – 28 times larger than their budget for Alternatives to Detention. But GEO has interests in both hard detention and “alternatives” after it purchased electronic monitoring company BI Incorporated. Cox’s ties in DC (as the former special assistant on legislative affairs to George Bush and chief of staff for two House Representatives) probably don’t hurt.
4. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; McBee Strategic Consulting, LLC; Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc; and Sisco Consulting, LLC round out the list of CCA’s DC spenders. They don’t come cheap, either: CCA shelled out $1,730,000 for their services (2011-2012). The four firms spent most of their time (and money) on the House and the Senate, but also paid visits to the US Marshals, the Department of Justice, and the State Department. Some of their interests include “the construction and management of private prisons and detention facilities;” “monitor[ing] immigration reform;” and “provisions related to ICE detention.”
Lobbying disclosure information from the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives.
via @NIJC: Immigrants Sue US Govt, IL County Jail for Inhumane Detention Conditions & Neglectful Medical Care
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CHICAGO (February 6, 2013) – Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) today filed a lawsuit against officials of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Jefferson County, Illinois, on behalf of seven immigrants who were held at the Jefferson County Justice Center under unsanitary conditions and with inadequate health care.
The lawsuit follows ICE’s evacuation of dozens of immigrants from the facility in November 2012, when all but one member of the facility’s medical staff had resigned or tendered their resignation, including the jail’s only doctor. NIJC has since documented reports of MRSA, tuberculosis, respiratory infections, and skin funguses which occurred among the jail’s ICE populations in the weeks leading up to the resignations and evacuation.
The lawsuit challenges the validity of ICE’s contract with Jefferson County, as well as widespread constitutional violations at the jail. Under federal law, ICE cannot detain people at facilities that are found to be “deficient” on two consecutive inspections. But even though Jefferson County Justice Center failed ICE inspections in four consecutive years from 2006 to 2009, ICE signed a contract and began to house immigrants there in 2009. Furthermore, the inspections that have taken place since 2009 were based on detention standards that that have been superseded.
“ICE’s contract with Jefferson County contradicts Congress’ mandate to detain immigrants in facilities that meet humane standards. ICE’s failure to adequately inspect and conduct proper oversight of the jail has set the stage for widespread, deplorable conditions of detention,” said NIJC Associate Director of Litigation Claudia Valenzuela, co-counsel in the case along with NIJC’s Mark Fleming and Chuck Roth. “The government cannot be allowed to confine people in facilities that are unable to provide for basic care and human rights.”
Immigrants who were held in ICE custody at Jefferson County during fall 2012 paint a grim picture: requests for medical treatment were repeatedly ignored, showers and restrooms were crusted with mold, drinking water was brown and putrid, jail pods were poorly ventilated, jail uniforms were tattered and soiled, and immigrants had no outdoor recreation or meaningful access to sunlight.
About 70 percent of the more than 420,000 men and women detained by ICE in fiscal year 2012 were held at state and local jails like Jefferson County Justice Center.
“The situation at Jefferson County is not isolated, and it is a consequence of ICE’s failure to exercise meaningful oversight over its detention system,” said NIJC Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “We see similar egregious conditions and lack of concern for even the most basic health and sanitary measures at ICE-contracted jails throughout the country. ICE must be held accountable for the wellbeing of people in its custody.”
Link to this statement: http://www.immigrantjustice.org/press_releases/immigrants-sue-inhumane-detention-conditions
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visitwww.immigrantjustice.org.
Washington, DC — February 5, 2013 — As the House Judiciary Committee began hearings on our country’s immigration crisis today and is reportedly due to release a draft bill on immigration reform as early as next week, Emily Tucker, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Detention Watch Network, is urging legislators to repeal mandatory detention laws:
“While we are excited about the momentum to finally create a path to citizenship for millions of people, immigration reform must include the reform of our wasteful and inhumane detention and deportation system. Neither the White House’s nor Senate’s plans respond to years of community outrage about border and interior enforcement programs that have separated families, violated due process rights, and led to serious human rights abuses. Many of those abuses occur in the 250 immigrant prisons where ICE holds over 400,000 people a year at a cost of $122 per person per day. More than 60% of those people are detained because of mandatory detention laws which take away ICE’s power to release people, and take away the power of judges to even review individual cases.
We have a real opportunity in front of us to get it right, and not repeat the mistakes of the reform efforts of the last decade. President Obama’s immigration blueprint called for a reduction in detention spending, a reduction that will be impossible as long as mandatory detention laws remain in place. But not only is Congress not planning to repeal mandatory detention through this round of legislation, there is a strong possibility that they will expand it. The price-tag for legalization must not include the continuation of this un-American practice, which criminalizes people of color, separates families and causes incredible suffering in our communities.
It’s absolutely crucial Congress include a rollback of mandatory detention laws in any new immigration legislation — fair, humane and cost-effective immigration policy is impossible as long as they are in place.”
AILA calls for a move beyond past benchmarks to a real discussion of what can make our nation more secure
Washington, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) released a report this week finding that the border security benchmarks of the past immigration reform bills have been met or exceeded. AILA calls on Congress and the President to resist the urge to throw more money and resources at the border when it is unclear that will make our country more secure.
“Almost every discussion of comprehensive immigration reform begins with the “need for more border security” when in reality, over the past few years, we’ve seen more manpower, more drones, more fences and definitely more money poured into border enforcement,” said Laura Lichter, AILA President. She continued, “And the effect is obvious, illegal migration is down to its lowest level in 40 years.”
Su Kim, chief author of the report noted, “We have reached a high-water mark in spending on the border and current realities do not justify continued build-up modeled on past proposals. AILA looked at whether those benchmarks had been met, and in almost every single case, they had been met or exceeded. The question now is whether lawmakers from both parties will move beyond outdated strategies to focus on immigration reform that will bring people out of the shadows onto an earned path to citizenship and create an immigration system that works for our people, our economy, and our country.”
The report is available here.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.
Artist Meredith Stern works with garden soil, linoleum, clay, and drums. She currently lives in Providence, RI with her partner Peter Glantz and their two cats. Much of her work focuses on representations of women, reproductive rights issues, and struggles for liberation.
Stern’s print is a collaboration with Colorlines, a magazine focusing on issues related to race, culture, and organizing. One of the issues the magazine has been investigating is how families are shattered when parents are deported. The magazine asserts that rather than being defined and divided by racism, citizens can become uplifted and united through racial justice. To do so, they say, it’s necessary to confront the racism at the core of our society. This perspective informs Colorlines’ award-winning investigative reporting and news analysis, and it drives Stern’s focus on naming problems and finding solutions.
Visit the artist’s website here. Check out more immigration-related work at MIGRATION NOW!, a new limited-edition portfolio of handmade prints addressing migrant issues from Justseeds and CultureStrike
New Publication via @SentProj: Children in Harm’s Way – Criminal Justice, Immigration Enforcement & Child Welfare
via The Sentencing Project:
Children of immigrants are a fast growing population, and the criminal justice system has become a key player in the deportation of their parents.
The Sentencing Project and First Focus, two organizations with very distinct missions, have joined forces to produce a new and timely publication explaining how children are harmed when the criminal justice, immigration enforcement, and child welfare systems converge in a parent’s life.
Children in Harm’s Way [PDF] is a compilation of articles written by leading scholars, policy analysts, and practitioners from a variety of disciplines. It is an essential primer explaining the principles and mechanics of current harmful policies that will help readers understand what is at stake for children in the unfolding discussions on immigration reform.
- Forward – Mark Mauer, The Sentencing Project and Bruce Lesley, First Focus
- Introduction – Children in Harm’s Way (Susan D. Phillips, The Sentencing Project)
- Family Unity in the Face of Immigration Enforcement: Past, Present, and Future (Emily Butera, Women’s Refugee Commission and Wendy Cervantes, First Focus)
- The Treacherous Triangle: Criminal Justice, Immigration Enforcement, and Child Welfare (Seth Freed Wessler, Applied Research Center)
- Two-Tiered Justice for Juveniles (Angie Junck, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Charisse Domingo, Silicon Valley De-Bug, and Helen Beasley, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto)
- Potential Immigration Consequences of State Criminal Convictions (Steven Weller, Center for Public Policy Studies and John A Martin, Immigration and the State Courts Initiative/Center for Public Policy Studies)
- Immigration Enforcement and Family Courts (David B. Thronson, Michigan State University College of Law)
- Unanswered Questions about Immigration Enforcement and Children’s Well-being (Alan J. Dettlaff, Jane Addams College of Social Work/University of Illinois, Chicago, and Yali Lincroft, Migration and Child Welfare National Network)
Written by by Linda Hartke. Reposted from LIRS:
Through this blog, I have the opportunity not only to share my voice, but also to lift up the voices of others standing for welcome at LIRS and throughout the nation. Today I’d like to introduce an interview by Luke Telander, Program Associate for Outreach at LIRS. He speaks with Sarah Jackson, founder of Casa de Paz in Denver.
Much has been made of the growth of the immigration detention and deportation systems over the last 20 years. Reporters and politicians freely quote statistics of the over 400,000 immigrants deported last year, over 200,000 parents of U.S. children deported of the last 27 months, and the approximately 122 dollars a day the U.S. government spends detaining each immigrant. While these numbers are important, stories like those from Sarah Jackson remind us that these men, women, and children are human beings, not simply statistics.
Responding to the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters traveling to visit their family members at the Denver detention facility, Sarah Jackson prepared a two-bedroom apartment and founded Casa de Paz, an organization that eases the difficulties of those with loved ones in detention by offering them free food and lodging during their stay in Denver. If you’re inspired by her leadership, once you’re done reading this post, please check out the Casa de Paz site and “Immigration Detention: What Can I Do About It?” to learn how you can make a difference.
I was lucky enough to connect with Sarah Jackson about her organization and the motivations behind her inspiring work. Here’s what she had to say via email:
Luke Telander (LT): What one experience gives you most motivation to continue working on immigration detention?
Sarah Jackson (SJ): If you have ever heard someone wailing, at the top of their lungs, you will never forget it. One night I was standing near the immigrant detention center and I heard a mom, wailing, for her son. He was being held inside the center and there was no way for her to see him since she herself was undocumented. Her voice rose into the dark, cold evening sky. Loud. Piercing. Chilling to the bone. She cried out his name over and over and over and over and over again.
I couldn’t go back to my normal life after witnessing this love being poured out by this beautiful mother. I will continue to work to bring families back together again until this kind of crying, this type of wailing, ceases to exist.
LT: Why did you decide to create Casa de Paz? Were there any other organizations serving this need?
SJ: To show hospitality to out-of-town guests visiting their loved ones inside the immigrant detention center was an act of love after visiting border towns and seeing families being torn apart. I wanted to do something, anything, to bring them back together again.
Denver has many organizations working alongside the immigrant population, but there was no home available for people to stay in. Once I heard this news I knew what my part to play was going to be. I found a two-bedroom apartment and within a few months, our doors were open to welcome guests.
LT: How have you been able to navigate relationships with detention facility and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials? Have they created roadblocks to spreading the word about your program?
SJ: Our visitation programs is not affiliated with ICE in any way. We get the names of people requesting visits by word-of-mouth so we do not rely on ICE’s help to achieve that. The guards have been very receptive of our program, and shown patience with new visitors navigating the system for the first time.
LT: You are based in the Denver area. Has this given you a unique view into America’s changing demographics and the evolution of the immigration debate?
SJ: Every city in this country has undocumented immigrants living in them. Every city. I think moving from Colorado Springs into Denver has just widened my perspective to realize this truth. It’s not something unique to one city or town. In Colorado Springs there are certain parts of the city inhabited with more immigrants than other parts. Denver, a larger city, has this population widespread. So, the make-up of each city may be different, but immigrants are everywhere. They are our neighbors.
LT: How do you think that national organizations can best help increase awareness regarding immigration detention?
SJ: Since national organizations tend to have a larger influence in the public arena, I believe campaigns to bring awareness of what’s truly going on is important. Using key relationships with media can help elevate this issue. I think a short video (1-2 minutes) that we can show in order to tell the story of immigrant detention would be helpful, as well.
There are stories that need to be told. Both from immigrants and those working inside the detention center. One story I would love for more people to hear about is how one of our volunteers witnessed a powerful event. Preston was in the waiting room just moments away from visiting a detainee, and noticed a lady frantically stuffing clothes into a backpack. She kept repeating, “I should’ve bought a bigger bag, I should’ve bought a bigger bag.” She was packing it for her husband to take with him after he would be deported. She crammed everything into the bag except his big coat. He was going to be deported without a coat, and it’s winter.
The guard behind the desk stood up. The lady was getting louder and assumptions were made that the guard was going to tell her to be quiet. He walked over with his big boots making a loud, booming noise on the cold floor. However, as he got closer to her, he reached his hands out and started helping her fold the clothes tighter so she could fit the coat in. This guard showed compassion in a beautiful way.
LT: Volunteers can spend the night with families at Casa de Paz when volunteering. Does this strengthen your mission and your work?
SJ: Honestly… we haven’t had any overnight visitors. But, that’s because lack of space. I originally thought we could host volunteers overnight, as well, because I imagined having an actual home with multiple rooms. But, because we can only afford a two-bedroom apartment, there is one room for the guests and the other for me.
LT: How do you envision Casa de Paz evolving in the future?
SJ: I would love to find a home we can settle into and make our guests feel like they have a little more privacy. We are in a two-bedroom apartment and sometimes I want to give them a little extra space. So, moving into a bigger space would be wonderful.
I want to keep building our base of visitation volunteers because through this experience I see people’s hearts being changed and their minds opening. It’s simply beautiful. The people we visit are extremely thankful. This is another great opportunity for us to share about Casa de Paz, in case their family would like to stay with us. One man we visited recognized the volunteer visiting him because he had seen an interview on Telemundo about the home while he was being detained. He was almost in shock saying, “You’re the lady from Casa de Paz! We all watched the interview here and thought to ourselves how great that is.”
Detainees released from detention are also welcomed to stay at our home if they have nowhere to go. My goal is to build relationships with shelters where we can eventually transition them into. The vision is the shelters can build a reentry program for the released detainees so they can holistically integrate into society after being held in detention.
Image credit: Antonu