Every day, thousands of immigrants in the U.S. are imprisoned because of a federal policy known as the “bed quota.” The policy requires Immigration and Customs Enforcement to maintain 34,000 detention beds per day, separating families and devastating communities across the country.
The bed quota is just one example of how corporations attempt to influence public policy. Some of the largest immigration detention centers are run by for-profit prison corporations, which have spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in recent years.
On May 13, 2015, AFSC staffers Gabriela Flora, Lia Lindsey and Matthew Lowen joined Media Relations Director Alexis Moore for “Locked up for Profit,” an online conversation about the quota. Here's a recap:
How the immigration detention bed quota harms families and communities
AFSC’s Gabriela Flora talks about Denver families torn apart by the immigrant detention bed quota, including the story of children who searched for their parents for four days before learning they’d been detained.
Gabriela also tells the story of Arturo—who ran a flooring business that employed nine people—and the impact his detention had on his family and community.
They’re called detention centers, but they’re like prisons.
Immigrants are detained in these facilities for months, sometimes even years, as they wait for their cases to be heard in court. Although they have not been charged with a crime, they face the same inhumane conditions as people who are in prison, including solitary confinement, says Gabriela.
How do for-profit prison corporations influence immigration policy?
Every year, the U.S. spends over $2 billion detaining hundreds of thousands of immigrants. Much of that money goes to for-profit prison corporations, like GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America, says AFSC’s Policy Impact Coordinator Lia Lindsey. Read an op-ed by Lia in Roll Call: "Immigration Bed Quota Ensures Profits, Not Safety."
How does corporate lobbying tie into this issue?
Cheap labor: Another way for-profit prisons make money off detaining immigrants
Immigrants in detention facilities labor for as little as $1 a day, says Gabriela. To buy a tube of toothpaste at the commissary, a detainee would have to work about four days.
Lack of transparency in privately run immigrant detention centers
Because for-profit prison corporations are private, they’re not required to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, says Lia. That means they can refuse to disclose earnings from government contracts and policies regarding medical care and staff training.
How can my community advocate against immigrant detention?
In Arizona, AFSC is part of a coalition of community members and organizations opposing for-profit prison corporations, says Associate Program Director Matthew Lowen. The Arizona office has released reports on the failures of prison privatization in the state and the spike in deaths among prisoners after the state contracted with a private medical care provider.
Organizers in Arizona have also pressured public officials to speak out against privately run prisons or step down from the board or other positions within those corporations.
Community members have also organized against Operation Streamline, a policy that allows courts to hear dozens of cases at one time, depriving immigrants of their right to due process.
Matthew further describes how people can take action in their own communities.
Questioning our presidential candidates about the bed quota
One attendee at the online discussion planned to see presidential candidate Martin O’Malley at an upcoming event. Here are the questions that Matthew, Lia, and Gabriela would ask him—or any other candidate.
Congressional efforts to end the immigrant detention bed quota
The proposed Deutch-Foster amendment—which has bipartisan support—could effectively end the bed quota if approved by Congress as part of the FY16 budget, says Lia. Contact your representatives today, and urge them to support the amendment and stop the quota.
Are you on Pinterest? Check out this collection of stories and resources on the immigrant detention bed quota and border militarization.