Corporations profit from immigration system


Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the world, makes no bones about it in their shareholder reports-- they are making money off the current immigration system.

"It's a product, the product they're moving through are human beings. They got to pick 'em up, get 'em through the prison, charge for having them in the prison and move 'em out of the country. It's an industry," said immigration attorney Joe DeMott.

DeMott's office is next to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility. Most nights at 6 p.m., the vans fill with detainees heading to private prisons.

DeMott's client Tony Castaneda was in one of those vans. Castaneda spent a month and a half at the GEO Group's private prison in Pearsall, the scar on his face a reminder of his time behind bars and a fall he claims guards wouldn't report.

"They told me they don't do no reports on no accidents. I told them, 'Well, look at my face.' It was swollen, I had a big ol' scar, I was bleeding a lot, I couldn't see with this eye," said Castaneda.

Castaneda would get his misdemeanor assault charge canceled, keep his green card and be released, but he never got to file a report.

"They have no recourse. If they end up being deported, then who are they going to complain to? They're out of their country and nobody has to worry about them anymore," said DeMott.

"At a time of shrinking state prison populations, they're banking on there being a steady and increasing number of immigrants behind bars," said Robert Libal, a strong critic of for-profit prisons.

One of Libal's biggest concerns is the amount of money they spend lobbying and donating to lawmakers. The GEO Group is the second-biggest private prison corporation in the world. No. 1 on the GEO Group's contribution list is US Rep. Henry Cuellar, according to influenceexplorer.com.

"Well, you know, I do raise good money from many sources and I know how to raise money," said Cuellar.

The congressman said he supports the private prisons because he doesn't want the old immigration detention system of "catch and release," and he also doesn't want to build new prisons, even if he's become a lightning rod for some of the critics.

"They're good folks, they believe in their cause, some of them are a little bit more liberal than I might be. I'm a moderate ... Democrat, but again I look at what's in the best interest of the community," said Cuellar.

Cuellar said he feels comfortable with the private prisons in south Texas, many of which are in his district, but he admits there have been problems. Earlier this year, a prison guard in Pearsall was charged with sexual assault of an immigrant detainee there. He will go on trial soon.

Click here to see the entire interview with Congressman Henry Cuellar.

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