Biden as a candidate pledged to end the federal government’s use of for-profit prisons, and acknowledged the need to end it when it comes to undocumented immigrants as well. “[H]e will make clear that the federal government should not use private facilities for any detention, including detention of undocumented immigrants,” the plan said. But while Politico reported following his order Tuesday that he was also considering expanding it to ICE, “he has no immediate plans to issue such an order,” the report said. In statements received by Daily Kos on Tuesday, advocates urged Biden to go all the way.
“In order to enact a more comprehensive agenda that truly prioritizes racial equity, President Biden must dismantle private prisons on all fronts, including ending private prisons partnerships and contracts held with ICE,” said United We Dream National Campaigns Manager for Community Protection Cynthia Garcia. She noted the widespread crimes against immigrants detained in privately operated facilities like Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia, where officers retaliated against women who spoke out about abuses committed by gynecologist Mahendra Amin.
“Despite a long-standing track record of neglect and abuse against immigrants held in ICE detention centers, private partnerships and prison contracts have abetted a cruel and unjust system that further punishes immigrants for speaking out against violence and mistreatment,” Garcia said. “These abuses will only worsen the longer these contracts exist and the more unnecessary funding is funneled into the Department of Homeland Security.”
“The very concept of detaining immigrants is rotten to its core and private prison companies like CoreCivic, Geo Group and LaSalle Corrections have profited immensely off the backs of the immigrants languishing in their sordid prisons,” Laura Rivera, an immigration attorney and director of the SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative, said. “Even amid the pandemic, more than 14,000 immigrants remain behind bars with inadequate COVID testing and PPE, and where it is impossible to socially distance.”
Rivera noted the deadly costs of this mass, for-profit detention agenda. “The profit incentive to keep people detained cost the lives of Cipriano Chavez-Alvarez, Jose Guillen-Vega and Santiago Baten-Oxlaj, who all died of COVID while in ICE custody at the CoreCivic-operated Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga.,” she continued.
Private prisons have known on which side their bread is buttered. Following the previous administration’s win in 2016, their stocks soared. Sure enough, that administration jailed record numbers of immigrants (and in defiance of congressional limits). When a Biden victory began to appear likelier than not, ICE then rushed into decade-long contracts with private prison profiteers. Not only should the Biden administration use its authority to terminate any such contracts that still may exist, it must end the federal government’s use of private prisons in all forms altogether.
“ICE detention is designed to dehumanize and to profit off of predominantly Black, Brown and Indigenous people,” Rivera continued. “And it’s clear that private prison companies have created perverse incentives to incarcerate as many immigrants as possible, for as long as possible. What’s more, ICE’s history of impunity has allowed the private prison companies ICE contracts with no escape accountability and public oversight. This is an irredeemable, profit-driven racket that the Biden-Harris administration must address.”