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26 August 2008 5 Comments

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Houston, TX – In a business park aptly named Export Plaza, Corrections Corporation of America runs a complex of concrete buildings surrounded by razor wire. It’s here where immigrants, like Sergia Santibanez, are locked up until they agree to leave the country.

“When you first get there, they tell you you’re nobody,” said Santibanez, who spent 16 months there. She still breaks into tears whenever she recalls the experience.

In 2005, the mother of three U.S.-born children was giving several people a ride outside of Austin, where she had been living as legal resident since the 1980s. She got into an accident, and when the police came, she was arrested and eventually convicted for transporting undocumented immigrants, an aggravated felony that revoked her legal status. She served four months in a federal prison before ending up at CCA’s Houston Processing Center while the court decided whether she should be deported.

“There, it was worse,” Santibanez said. “They told you that you had to put up with it because we came to them, not them to us, and so we didn’t have a right to anything.”

Private detention centers – most of which are operated by CCA – are key to the federal government’s goal of “ensuring the departure from the United States of all removable aliens,” which are estimated to total about 12 million.

kl “When people are out on the street they are able to work and hire lawyers to represent them in the removal process,” observed Judy Greene, a criminal justice analyst. “When they are behind bars, they are under pressure to be removed. After weeks and months they want to go home, and whether or not they have sufficient grounds for relief is irrelevant.”In August 2007, Santibanez agreed to be deported. “My lawyer had all kinds of reasons to keep fighting,” she said when contacted by phone in Mexico. “He asked me ‘are you sure you want that?’ And in the end, I was fed up and I signed.”

Santibanez is one of a quarter million undocumented immigrants deported between October 2006 and September 2007 as part of “interior enforcement” – an intensified crackdown on illegal aliens already in the U.S that is taking place even as the government is conducting increased patrol of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Special law enforcement teams target those who have deportation orders pending, and states are receiving federal funds to comb prisons for “criminal aliens” and ensure they are deported once they serve their sentence. Nearly 80 percent of CCA’s immigrant inmates come from interior enforcement carried out by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Department of Homeland Security, and the US Marshals Service. In all, CCA facilities house more than half of the immigrants currently detained in private facilities. Its competitors, Geo Group, Cornell Company and Avalon Correctional Services share the rest of the business, along with several other smaller companies.

The crackdown on immigrants began in 2003, but since there was not enough prison space to detain those issued deportation orders, the policy was “catch and release.” In 2005, after companies like CCA had been contracted to provide detention facilities, the policy shifted to “catch and return.” This has resulted in the jailing of hundreds of thousands of immigrants until they agreed to be deported. Today CCA is the leading provider of private prisons for undocumented immigrants.

“We’re here to take care of the product they deliver to us,” said Michael Davis who doubles as the chaplain and spokesman for CCA’s Houston Processing Center. “Until they’re deported we take care of the detainees the best we can.”

CCA had its eye on privatizing the entire immigrant detention system since 2004, when it proposed taking over detention operations and to build even more facilities in anticipation of rising demand.

It was a huge potential market for them,” said Ronald Jones, who helped prepare the proposal as the former head of CCA’s Research and Analysis Department. He claims ICE never responded to the proposal.

In 2008-2009, the ICE budget allocated $250 million for detention bedspace. These funds brought the total number of beds to 32,000. By comparison, alternatives to detention – including setting the immigrants free but with electronic monitors and requiring regular visits with case managers – received just $10 million in funding.

Most of CCA’s detention centers are like the Houston facility, which holds close to a thousand male and female detainees.

The site includes 19 “dorms” equipped with bunk beds in a building connected to an ICE administrative office, and two courtrooms. Detainees come from Central America, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Tanzania, Nigeria, the Congo and the Philippines. Their average stay is two to three months.

Most of CCA’s detention centers are like the Houston facility, which holds close to a thousand male and female detainees.

The site includes 19 “dorms” equipped with bunk beds in a building connected to an ICE administrative office, and two courtrooms. Detainees come from Central America, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Tanzania, Nigeria, the Congo and the Philippines. Their average stay is two to three months.

When she was in federal prison, Santibanez was able to visit with her children in a large room with other families. Her daughter, Luisanna, thought the detention center would be even more open to visitors given that people there had not been convicted of crimes but were awaiting civil immigration proceedings.

“It was the exact opposite,” recalled Luisanna. “We were separated by a plexiglass window. There’s this little space where we all tried to talk to my mom over the phone.”

Santibanez spent 18 months fighting her deportation in order to be able to stay in the country with her children.

“As the months went by, she kept looking more depressed,” said Luisanna. “The color of her skin started fading as she tried to survive prison life.”

CCA declined to be interviewed or answer written questions for this story. The company rarely grants media requests for comments that could result in adverse publicity, and hurt its ability to obtain new contracts or lose existing contracts.



  • promosyon said:

    This is the best observation i have ever seen for this subject

  • Barry Acai said:

    Good post. Thanks for the interesting take on the subject.

  • bahce said:

    Very good article, thank you!

  • Lina said:

    That is the SICKEST most DISGUSTING ABUSE OF HUMANITY! I have “seen” these private PRISONS, they are meant for CRIMINALS NOT LEGAL or “undocumented” immigrants, meaning they are TRYING TO DESTROY THE MIND IF NOT THE BODY as documented with photos and visitation and PROOF being held by a LV Attorney for further investigation into the inhumane treatment of the FEW immigrants scattered enough NOT to raise eyebrows or incite a riot which peaceful it would be, would I an original U.S. citizen by generation and birth ALSO be “silenced” and sent somewhere as foreign to me as a 40 year old whose entire life since the age of 3 had been OUTSIDE his birthplace and country of origin and NEVER knew or has KNOWN any person from HIS country except his immediate family ALL U.S. born or naturalized for a crime yes, a crime of being an ACCESSORY AFTER THE FACT during his Junior year of H.S. A model citizen, school, church, BOY SCOUTS, at the wrong place at the wrong time and in SHOCK. These UNMARKED vans with men WITHOUT ANY IDENTIFICATION except blue jackets and hats pulled down low burst into a home WITHOUT WARNING OR PERMISSION WITH NO WARRANT and REFUSE to say what office or division of ANY LEGAL LAW ENFORCEMENT THEY ARE WITH drag a father supporting an ailing wife and two teenage children out of his home BEFORE his “warrant” is signed which is NOT in fact a warrant but a LETTER to be delivered stating a REVIEW for his status is under investigation due to a REVISED and OPEN TO BE AMENDED revision statute??? Then MOVED from his OWN city, large enough and having had it’s own detention for immigration issues and at WORST sent to “camp snoopy” the immigration facility in Arizona. Yet NO, his name WAS changed in the system DESPITE PROOF FROM HOMELAND SECURITY—all intentional to ensure NO ONE was able to track this LAW ABIDING, TAX PAYING and SOCIAL SECURITY PAYING individual,making hundreds of thousands off of ONE PERSON and their family’s fall into destitution and near death of the wife after moving him to North Las Vegas to a PRIVATE FEDERAL PRISON—where he was locked down 21–TWENTY ONE HOURS A DAY with day old baloney sandwiches for DINNER with THREE OTHER PEOPLE IN ONE ROOM DESIGNED FOR TWO, this is a 6’4 300 lb individual with a Bachelors or higher who is a contributing member of society and labelled as a “risk to others” having lived next door to even his H.S. coach since his incident in 89 for over 20 years with NEVER another ANY TYPE OF PROBLEM, INCLUDING the replacement of an alien card that was stolen with his wallet and given instead of his unexpired card a ten year, that was renewed and then ANOTHER ten year and went for the third and NOTHING in the MAIL–BE WARNED the BIOMETRICS is a GIMMICK TO GET YOU—BE VERY AFRAID–contact an attorney IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT EVER CONTACT THEM OR GO TO THE OFFICES. DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR WORK, YOUR WIFE’S NAME, YOUR CHILDREN’S NAMES, OR YOUR HOME ADDRESS. His grandmother and uncle died while in there, his wife nearly x2. Visitation consisted of monitors not even glass or phone visits probably to disguise the wasted form of what once was a vibrant young professional, losing 60 + lbs the first month there. The children after over 10 months of deprivation of their father caved and begged to go to whatever country, even unsafe after a tremendous burning down of the main town and siege upon the island they could not and would not wait for even with an attorney, a top attorney they refused to even move him yet made him a trustee, entrusted with keys that would release violent criminals yet the reason they would not release him and give him the letter that was never sent and the reason they used for the warrant to detain him until his “court date” that was randomly set the following MONDAY IN LAS VEGAS—PREMEDITATED ALL THE WAY was a hoax with the judge stating he had NO JURISDICTION TO LET HIM GO? WHAT? Nothing they said ever made sense, this man was dying, his family dying, his wife WAS/IS DYING and he PAID FOR HIS CRIME TWENTY YEARS AGO to lose his home, job, family and be EXILED to a tiny island forever and NEVER AGAIN see his children graduate ANYTHING OR LIVE THEIR LIVES unless they came to visit him, with a 200.000 education that was PAID BACK and STILL THE IRS kept ALL OF HIS TAXES even HIS WIFE’S TAXES, they kept coming, pulling out all the stops to suck the remaining RIGHTS from him as a human being…being HANDCUFFED AND ESCORTED ALL THE WAY OVER 7,000 MILES, humiliated and treated worse than a dog (wait we have the HUMANE SOCIETY FOR ANIMALS, just not LEGALIZED IMMIGRANTS?). Obama promised changes, oh they’ve changed for the WORSE, they ALL PROMISE DON’T THEY, but it just gets worse. Wish HE WAS OBAMA’S HALF BROTHER and that the “Terminator” had responded and done what he promised which was review his case and dismiss it as the grounds were VERY CLEAR it would have been allowable, even BUSH COULD HAVE DONE ONE DECENT THING IN HIS 8 YEARS AND SET HIM FREE, instead, he lives in deplorable conditions having to send his children BACK to the US for proper care and education and even protection as they are not natural born citizens of this country he knows nothing of, not even the language and his wife, tormented and abused and threatened already chronically ill, severely needing treatment and surgery they refuse and also can not meet her needs and demand an atrocious amount to treat even the most minor ailment. You’ve sent people to their death America, Americans, who support you NOW in your old age, disability, financial aid and unemployment and YOU DO NOT CARE! You have NOT LEARNED ANYTHING or you would KNOW that “Americans” are the AMERICAN NATIVE INDIANS, we are INFILTRATORS who did NOT LIKE ENGLAND and then MANY OTHER COUNTRIES yet it is STILL DISCRIMINATION. Bush, the LAST PRESIDENT BY LAW is an AGGRAVATED FELON—since the “elevation” of so many crimes, what is HIS PUNISHMENT? Living with his mommy and daddy now? Or LOOKING IN THE MIRROR? Disgusting, Despicable, a life to feed the flames of greed and fill the pockets to help everyone but their own countrymen who are cleared to fight for the liberty of America but NOT DEEMED FIT THOUGH LEGALLY THERE TO REMAIN and STOLEN IN THE NIGHT WITH AUTOMATIC SHOTGUNS IN FRONT OF THEIR FAMILIES AND DRAGGED OUT IN FRONT OF NEIGHBOURS AND FRIENDS AND HIDDEN AND CAST AWAY INTO A HOLE until SOMEONE BREAKS!

  • William Moore said:

    outsourcing is always essential to businesses coz it helps reduce the cost of production”,;

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