A Giant Private Prison Company Complained About California’s Sanctuary States Laws; Federal Immigration Enforcement Officials Listened

As President Trump assumed office, he began following through on his promises to make America a less welcoming place for immigrants. In response, California passed a wide range of laws designed to protect immigrants, including a ‘Sanctuary State’ bill. For many immigrants, California’s reforms provided some much needed legal protection during a very difficult and very stressful time.

But not everyone was so happy about the legislation. GEO Group Inc. — the largest private prison company in the United States — quickly made its complaints known. According to a new, disturbing report from Mother Jones, officials at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were highly responsive to this private detention firm’s corporate interests.   

Why the Company Cares: A Quarter of Revenue Comes Directly From Immigration Detention

The use of private prisons in and of itself is an extremely controversial issue. Though, few people are aware of just how heavily the private prison industry is involved in immigration detention. The GEO Group is a large company — taking in approximately $2 billion in global revenue each year. According to Mother Jones, around 25 percent of that revenue comes from the company’s contracts with ICE to operate immigration detention centers throughout the United States.

The GEO Group operates two immigration detention facilities in Southern California: the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County and the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield. As California passed sanctuary state laws, the company’s leadership took action. Mother Jones reports that a GEO Group memo was sent to the Acting Director of ICE and to the agency’s top lawyer with an analysis of the company’s own legal conclusions about California — unsurprisingly, these conclusions were fiercely against the sanctuary state bill and highlighted legal strategies that could be used to attack the laws in court.

High-Ranking Members of ICE, DOJ Passed Around the Private Prison Company’s Legal Analysis

The reporting from Mother Jones is based on records and emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. What it shows is that high ranking officials at ICE were very responsive to the complaints of the GEO Group. The apparent close ties between the agency and a private prison contractor are certainly cause for concern.

Notably, there has been a history of complaints at facilities operated by this company. The Adelanto ICE Processing center — a nearly 2,000 bed detention facility — is the same place where horrific conditions were reported earlier this year, including nooses being found in cells. At least five immigrant deaths have been reported at Adelanto in the last year.  

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