From 2000 to 2006, the average number of undocumented immigrants detained in the United States on any given day hovered around 20,000. And while that number had slowly started to creep up as lawmakers passed a series of post-911 security and terrorism prevention measures, it wasn't until 2009 that we saw a de-facto immigrant detention quota when Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) inserted this language into Immigration and Customs Enforcement's detention budget: "funding made available under this heading shall maintain a level of not less than 33,400 detention beds." (Byrd, for the record, did spend much of the latter part of his political career apologizing for his ties to the Klan.)
This year ICE is set to open what will ultimately become the country's largest immigrant detention center in the small South Texas town of Dilley. The new 2,400-bed facility, which is specifically designed to hold undocumented women and their children, will be operated by Corrections Corporation of America, one of two private prison giants that have seen profits rise as increased immigration enforcement boosted the number of immigrants put in detention.
In a new report, Grassroots Leadership, an advocacy group critical of the private prison industry, details how CCA and fellow for-profit prison company GEO Group found a lucrative market created by ICE's so-called "bed mandate."More »