As immigrations sweeps overwhelm detention systems, some private companies look to benefit
This week's large-scale immigration raid at Columbia Farms, a chicken processing plant near Greenville, S.C, where more than 300 were arrested, is just the latest in a stepped-up federal enforcement effort that has resulted in the deportation of thousands of illegal workers in recent months, reports the L.A. Times.
The disruption to families and communities remains a huge issue. Alternet reports this week that Northern Virginia is one of the places where the immigration debate has been the most heated. With aggressive local policies such as ones requiring law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of people who are arrested, the Latino population in the city of Manassas and Prince William County has plummeted.
According to the Washington Post:
Federal officials regularly misplace files or fail to bring detainees to court hearings, resulting in needless additional jail time at taxpayer expense.With more sweeps, space is becoming a large issue. The larger detention population may in fact begin to feed the expansion of for-profit detention facilities, much in the same way the jump in the U.S. prison population fed the private-prison boom of the last decade.
During recent court proceedings before an immigration judge, in more than half the cases the government was missing detainee files, did not know where detainees were being held or failed to bring a detainee to a facility with proper videoconferencing equipment.
Legal advocates say the system is rife with errors as it grows more clogged. In records gathered this summer by the District-based CAIR Coalition, which provides legal services to immigrants in Virginia jails, government prosecutors came to court without detainees' files in 60 of 162 cases. In 81 cases, ICE failed to bring the detainee to his or her mandatory court hearing.
Handwritten letters from detainees seeking help from immigrant advocacy groups, obtained by The Washington Post, relate tales of lost and inaccurate records and detainees' inability to get even the simplest information about their case status.
For detainees, hiring a lawyer is the best way to avoid falling through the cracks. But for those who cannot afford one, ICE is not obligated to provide legal counsel. With little chance of contacting an ICE case officer, advocates say, detainees are often left in jail for months, awaiting a flight or bus ride to their native countries.
The Washington Post reports that ICE officials are now making plans to create the largest immigration detention facility in the mid-Atlantic region in Farmville, Virginia. The $21 million project will also be a profit-making venture for many private individuals who plan to reap massive benefits.
The 1,040-bed facility will be unique not only because it will dwarf many of Virginia's jails but also because it is a private venture aimed at capitalizing on the massive influx of detainees into the [ICE] system over the past year. A small group of Richmond investors looks to reap millions of dollars in profit by building what has been described as the "mid-Atlantic hub" for ICE operations in a town just three hours south of the nation's capital.
Although ICE has not guaranteed that even a single detainee will be sent to the facility, the investors plan to break ground Oct. 15 and believe they will have the facility filled to 85 percent of capacity a year from now as part of a contract between the town and ICE. There is room to expand the detention center to 2,500 beds.
The facility is being built and run by a private subcontractor, and it will be a huge boon for the private investors, who have secured as part of the ICE contract a rate of almost $63 per detainee per day -- that means that if the estimated 322,000 detainee days are achieved each year, the company could gross $20 million in federal tax dollars annually, according to the Washington Post.