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The whole system is guilty

Gloria M. Sandoval  |  Issue: February | March 2019

ICE detention centers are present-day concentration camps. Corporations profit from human suffering


Jakelin Caal Maquin

Jakelin Caal Maquin, 8 years old, dies in ICE detention center.


Felipe Gómez Alonso

Felipe Gómez Alonso, 8 years old, dies in ICE detention center.


Immigration has become another huge money-making industry in the United States. The “detention centers” are more like concentration camps of immigrants who have committed no crime other than not having documents. Families, children and adults do not know how long they will be held without their freedom. There was a rapid response to housing unaccompanied or separated children with Trump’s family separation policy by installing tents, using military bases, or a converted WalMart.

The supervision has been inadequate and the care not like a family member would have provided. There have been deaths in the ICE detention centers, most notably of children.

Mariee Juárez, not quite age 2, died last May 10. Jakelin Caal Maquín, age 7, died on December 8. Felipe Alonzo-Gómez, age 8, died on December 24. All three children were from Guatemala.

A total of 22 immigrants have died in ICE detention centers during the past two years.

The United States maintains the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world. By the end of fiscal year 2017 it included more than 1,000 sites either directly owned by or under contract with the federal government, according to the National Immigration Justice Center.

In 2017, GEO Group and CoreCivic together earned $985 million from ICE contracts. GEO, a private corporation on the stock market expects full-year 2018 total revenue to be approximately $2.3 billion.

More profits are made by corporations that provide these sites with food, medical care, telephone, transportation, tech infrastructure, financial services and inspections. The basic funding comes from public taxes – that is, from you and me – including those taxes paid by undocumented workers.

From the money that corporations make, donations go to elected and government officials to lobby them to keep funding these detention centers. Private prisons were stopped by the Obama administration and restarted by Trump’s. There is no oversight or accountability and many complaints have been documented with no major changes.

Brownsville, Texas is said to have the biggest licensed child care facility (“concentration camp”) in the nation for children brought into the United States illegally. The children, a mix of those who crossed into the United States unaccompanied and those who were separated from their parents under Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new zero-tolerance policy, spend 22 hours per day during the week (21 hours on weekends) locked inside a converted former WalMart, packing five into rooms built for four. It housed nearly 1,500 boys ranging from 10 to 17 years old.

The Department of Health and Human Services (under the Office of Refugee Resettlement) reported housing about 11,200 immigrant children and is looking for other locations including U.S. Air Force bases to house the overflow.

The government pays for thousands of detention beds for illegal immigrant families, whether the beds are used or not. ICE’s biggest facility, the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, can hold 2,400 parents and children but at one point it was at just 63 percent capacity with 886 empty beds. The government was still paying for them. The contractor who operated the Dilley facility was paid a flat rate of $3.1 million per month regardless of the number of residents.

Therefore, the government saves no money in reducing the number of families processed at the facility. It is important to note that no other law-enforcement agency is subject to a national quota system for incarceration.

Lastly, the Wall remains Trump’s stubborn call to please his supporters and cause more than 800,000 federal employees to go without pay during the government shutdown.

Trump is seeking $5.7 billion to build his wall! Democrats have pledged that taxpayers will not foot the bill for the wall, but they have not stopped using public money to fund detention centers. There is a lot more to the story of this new industry that is making billions of dollars in profits. Defund ICE now!

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