Who is benefiting from the record deportations carried out under the Obama Administration? Julia Preston wrote in The New York Times today that despite a 10% drop in deportations compared to last year, Obama still holds the overall record for the most deportations for any American president. We learn from the article that the Administration is saying that they are simply fulfilling a congressional legislative mandate that X number of beds in detention centers be filled each day with immigrants. As Preston wrote:
Administration officials said removal numbers were determined by a requirement, included by Congress in the immigration agency’s appropriations, to fill a daily average of about 34,000 beds in detention facilities. The mandate, which is closely monitored by oversight committees, amounts to about 400,000 removals a year.
That's the Administration's story and they're sticking to it. Surrogates are quick to trot out Obama's vaunted prosecutorial discretion at every opportunity, noting that Obama has instructed DHS not to deport noncriminal immigrants with ties to families in the US. In the Times article, acting director of ICE John Sandweg stated, "We want to fill the beds with the right people, that is, public safety and national security threats and individuals we are required by law to detain.” But as Preston and others' reporting note, it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw the line between high and low priority deportees.
More disturbing are the ties between the private prison industry and Congress. Three main private prison firms have contracts with the Department Homeland Security to house immigration detainees since federal and state prisons are overwhelmed. The private prison industry has enjoyed a boom thanks to undocumented immigration and the limbo that immigration reform is in. CBS reports that in 2011, 50% of immigration detention facilities were run by private firms "with little federal oversight" and that "The industry's giants - Corrections Corporation of America, The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp. - have spent at least $45 million combined on campaign donations and lobbyists at the state and federal level in the last decade, the AP found."
So who is actually benefiting from Obama's aggressive deportation policies and Congress' mandate that taxpayers must pay to keep 34,000 people in jail, at a cost of about $120 each per day? Bloomberg News has also confirmed that this is in fact a "detention quota" and that the privatization of the prison industry is a growing trend. As usual, follow the money trail.