Immigration Prison Industry: Children, Families, Profits

rini border fence

Reveal reported in early July that a private contractor, MVM, held children in an unlicensed facility in Phoenix. After initially denying reports, MVM said it was only transporting them, not holding them in custody, even though children remained in the building overnight. On July 17, Reveal reported that MVM also held children in a second office/warehouse building in Phoenix.

“Bill Weaver, an insurance executive who used to lease the 20th Street space now occupied by MVM, told Reveal that for the past two years, he’s seen children from babies to teenagers come through the office….

“Weaver said three office suites share a set of bathroom stalls and sinks. To bathe, he said, the children would use a pair of bathroom sinks. He said he’s seen it on multiple occasions.” [Emphasis added]

According to the Arizona Republic, MVM was founded by three former CIA agents and is “the primary contractor to provide transportation services for unaccompanied children and is the only contractor identified to “dispatch reunited family to pre-identified release location” after families are reunited.”

“Detaining immigrant children has morphed into a surging industry in the U.S. that now reaps $1 billion annually — a tenfold increase over the past decade,” according to an Associated Press analysis. Children are housed in “shelters,” but some feel a lot like prisons to the toddler-to-teenage immigrants held there. Shelter contractors “run the gamut from nonprofits, religious organizations and for-profit entities,” and shelters also vary widely in style and quality of care.

The bottom line, however, is trauma for children separated from their parents, a new injury piled on top of their already traumatic journey and the circumstances they fled.

Detaining immigrant families and adults long has been big business for the for-profit prison industry, which saw stock prices double in the months following Trump’s election.  Even before the ‘zero tolerance’ push, some 60 percent of immigrant detainees were housed in private prisons. Several lawsuits have challenged conditions of imprisonment for immigrant detainees who have not been convicted of crimes, alleging forced labor and other rights violations.

A recent federal investigation found that ICE fails to adequately monitor its private prisons or follow up on complaints, including complaints of abuse and sexual assault.  

At one detention facility, ICE waived the requirement that non-violent detainees with no history of serious criminal offenses be kept separate from those detainees who did have a record of violent behavior or serious criminal conduct. Citing cost and space constraints, ICE concurred with the facility’s assessment that segregating detainees in this way—separating the violent from the non-violent— ‘may prove to be an undue burden.’”

In other immigration news of the day:

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About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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