A new report from the Washington Post takes a close look at the $1 billion contract given by the federal government to the country’s largest prison company to build a detention facility for undocumented immigrants (mostly women and children) seeking asylum in the South Texas town of Dilley.
The Billion Dollar Contract
According to the Post, the administration bypassed standard bidding procedures in order to quickly agree to the $1 billion contract during the Central American immigration crisis of 2014. The four-year contract with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is described as “an unusual arrangement”, because the federal government pays the CCA a fixed amount of $20 million per month regardless of how many people are detained in the facility.
The contract with CCA assumes that the South Texas Family Residential Center is always 100% full, whereas other detention contracts provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are based on the percentage of beds occupied.
The Post estimates that the government spends around $285 per day, per person, if the facility it at its full capacity of 2,400 people. When the facility is only half-full, the government spends $570 per person, per day. On days when the facility is nearly empty, the government pays multiples more.
The CCA did not comment on how much it actually costs to operate the center, but documents obtained by the Post show that the facility in Dilley provided 14% of the company’s revenue last year. The company has operates more than 70 detention facilities in the country.
The Issue on Deterrence
The asylum seekers in the immigration crisis of 2014 mostly came from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. These three countries are known as places where gang and drug-related violence have become so rampant. By claiming that they feared for their lives and safety, the Central Americans were not subject to ordinary deportation like other unauthorized migrants. Instead, they were entitled to assert their asylum claims.
This proved to be problematic for Department of Homeland Security (DHS), because patrollers reported that individuals kept breaching the border because they believed that the U.S. was granting permisos to new arrivals, allowing migrants to walk right into the country.
In order to cut down the surge, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson determined that the U.S. needed to demonstrate that asylum seekers wouldn’t receive leniency. Johnson gained the approval of the White House to explore detention measures for asylum seekers on a scale never seen before in the country. It was all part of what he considered to be “aggressive deterrence strategy”.
Immigration activists, however, cast doubt on whether the U.S. is getting what it paid for. According to former acting ICE director John Sandweg, he “[does] not believe that family detention has been a deterrent.”
The influx of asylum-seeking women and children has not really changed from two years ago. Over the past year, around 66,000 people have been apprehended at the border, compared with the 61,000 in the 2014.
If you want to know more about the current procedures for migrants who want to claim asylum in the U.S., contact Lyttle Law Firm at 512-215-5225. You may also visit our website to see our list of immigration services.