Excerpted From: Antonio Iglesias, Abolishing the Private Prison Industry's Evolving Influence on Immigrant Oppression, 25 Cardozo Journal of Equal Rights & Social Justice 293 (Winter, 2019)(Student Note)(212 Footnotes) (Full Document Not Available)
The social, political and economic subordination of immigrants--who embody the marginalized identities of persons of color, criminals and foreigners--is in high demand as they continue to supply the profit-seeking machine that is the private prison industry. The underlying economic relationship between the lucrative private prison industry and the societal and political pressures for stricter immigration and criminal law and policy, result in the imprisonment, and ultimately, the oppression of more immigrants. Currently, the United States federal government and most states authorize private prisons in some form. Officials in the federal government and private prison companies claim that competition and market forces promote cost-savings and greater corrections service for contracting governments. These alleged benefits, however, fail to justify the grave humanitarian and social consequences that arise under the private prison industry. In addition to humanitarian and social exploitation, as non-citizens, immigrants also suffer the additional long-term, seemingly incessant effects of political and racial subordination. This Note will detail why the federal government and all other states, especially states such as Arizona which have relatively harsher laws that implicitly intend to criminalize immigration, should adopt legislation that abolishes private prison contracts. These states should adopt laws such as those in Illinois and New York which abolish private prison contracts because such legislation preserves the rights of immigrants who suffer resulting adverse effects, such as: (1) large increases in immigrants in detention, even with minor initial arrest charges such as traffic violations; (2) fear of law enforcement, and specifically fear of reporting instances of crime for fear that local police will contact federal immigration authorities; (3) fleeing back to their countries of origin in fear of immigration detention; (4) the separation of families and crippling effects on communities; (5) anxiety-related health effects; (6) racial profiling and discrimination; and (7) fear and mistrust in schools leading to decreases in school enrollment.
Part I of this Note will provide background information relating to (1) the rise of the private prison industry, (2) the development of immigration detention in the U.S., (3) the role that the private prison industry plays in immigration detention and its economic incentives in shaping substantive criminal and immigration laws and policies that make it easier to criminalize immigration and increase private prison populations, and (4) the private prison industry's growing influence in the political and legislative process to secure its continued success.
Part II seeks to dispel the popular myth that the private prison system offers state and federal governments cost-saving opportunities, while also confronting practical challenges associated with achieving the abolition of private prison contracts, such as today's political climate and the intergovernmental immunity doctrine.
Part III will propose that the federal government, along with Arizona and other similarly situated states that have relatively harsher laws that implicitly intend to criminalize immigration, should adopt legislation like that of Illinois and New York that prohibits the use of private prisons. Further, Part III will analyze the results that Arizona's Senate Bill 1070 (“SB-1070”), partially inspired and written by private prison corporations, has had on immigrants in Arizona and will compare them to how immigrants have fared in states such as New York and Illinois that have abolished the use of private prisons through state legislation.
Part IV will conclude with a final presentation of the legislative proposal and how its adoption can contribute to a nationwide reduction in the oppression of immigrants.
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The practice of profit-driven immigrant detention should cease on principled grounds of the humanitarian and democratic goals of a society that protects the rights of the vulnerable and oppressed. To accomplish this end, activists and advocates should concentrate on pushing corporate actors out of the business either through public and political pressure on the supply side, i.e., private companies creating immigration detention centers--or on the demand side, i.e., governmental and public agencies contracting with and paying the companies to do so. Moreover, some states have statutory bans against entering into contracts with private corporations for the operation of their prison system. These state statutory bans, however, do not always result in a state excluding itself from the private prison industry. In Wisconsin, for example, Governor Scott Walker, who has a history of ties with the prison industry, worked around the Wisconsin ban on private prison contracts by shipping Wisconsin prisoners out of state to private prisons in Ohio and Kentucky, thus still directing Wisconsin tax dollars to private prison companies. Therefore, a federal ban on private prison contracts would be even more beneficial than a state ban because it would be the most efficient way to impact immigrants nationwide and to ensure that they do not continue to suffer the adverse effects from the economic incentives that private prisons have in creating self-serving, harsh immigration laws that increase detention populations.
The private prison industry has influenced the democratic process by way of influencing and creating immigration and criminal law and policy since its inception in the 1980's. As long as the federal government and state governments continue to contract with private prison companies, there will be a market for immigrant detention, and ultimately, immigrant oppression. Although implementing federal or state legislation that abolishes the use of private prisons for use of immigration detention would inevitably present certain practical challenges, it's potential positive effects may be long-lasting.
In sum, the federal government and all other states, especially states such as Arizona, should adopt legislation that abolishes private prison contracts, similar to that of Illinois and New York, for such legislation has the potential to preserve the rights of immigrants, who suffer resulting adverse effects such as: (1) large increases in immigrants in detention, even with minor initial arrest charges such as traffic violations; (2) fear of law enforcement, and specifically fear of reporting instances of crime for fear that local police will contact federal immigration authorities; (3) fleeing back to their countries of origin in fear of immigration detention; (4) the separation of families; (5) anxiety-related health effects; (6) racial profiling and discrimination; and (7) fear and mistrust in schools leading to decreases in school enrollment. The livelihood of countless current and future immigrants throughout the United States are potentially on the line.