Inside the administration’s $1 billion deal to detain Central American asylum seekers

Source: Chico Harlan, Washington Post, August 14, 2016

As Central Americans surged across the U.S. border two years ago, the Obama administration skipped the standard public bidding process and agreed to a deal that offered generous terms to Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest prison company, to build a massive detention facility for women and children seeking asylum. The four-year, $1 billion contract — details of which have not been previously disclosed — has been a boon for CCA, which, in an unusual arrangement, gets the money regardless of how many people are detained at the facility. … In hundreds of other detention contracts given out by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, federal payouts rise and fall in step with the percentage of beds being occupied. But in this case, CCA is paid for 100 percent capacity even if the facility is, say, half full, as it has been in recent months. … The rewards for CCA have been enormous: In 2015, the first full year in which the South Texas Family Residential Center was operating, CCA — which operates 74 facilities — made 14 percent of its revenue from that one center while recording record profit. CCA declined to specify the costs of operating the center. … Before Dilley, CCA’s revenue and profit had been flat for five years. The United States’ population of undocumented immigrants had begun to fall, reversing a decades-long trend, and the White House was looking to show greater leniency toward illegal immigrants already in the country. But under pressure to demonstrate that it still took border issues seriously, the administration took a tougher stance toward newly arriving Central Americans. …

Related:

The Obama Administration’s $1 Billion Giveaway to the Private Prison Industry
Source: Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, August 15, 2016

For the first time in modern American history, the government decides to detain all Central American women and children seeking asylum in the U.S., instead of allowing them to live freely until their days in court. The policy change is intended to send a message to anyone else seeking refuge from a plague of gang violence below our southern border: Don’t believe everything you read on the Statue of Liberty. And to implement this draconian proposal, the government awards a well-connected private prison company with a $1 billion no-bid contract — one that promises to pay the firm $20 million a month, no matter how few migrants its facility is responsible for housing at a given time. Then federal courts rule that this policy of mass detention isn’t actually legal. But the contract is already signed, and so the Corrections Corporation of America collects millions in taxpayer money to maintain a nearly empty detention center. This may sound like the kind of cruel, incompetent policy-making you’d expect from Donald Trump’s administration. But it’s actually the work of Barack Obama’s. …