TUCSON, Arizona – The detention of undocumented immigrants has become a multimillion dollar business for corporations devoted to the administration of prisons and detention centers in states like Arizona, activists say.
“The latest figure we have is that each month $17 million is paid for the undocumented people who are processed under the Streamline program in federal court in Tucson,” Isabel Garcia, a lawyer and director of the Arizona Human Rights Coalition, told Efe on Tuesday.
Under Operation Streamline, launched in 2005, undocumented migrants apprehended at the border have to serve jail time before they are deported.
Each day in federal court in Tucson an average of about 70 undocumented immigrants are processed and receive sentences ranging from 30 to 180 days behind bars.
One of the biggest U.S. operators of private prisons is Corrections Corporation of America.
In Arizona, CCA runs six prisons and immigrant detention centers, and activists like Garcia say that it is the main beneficiary of Operation Streamline, as well as the enforcement of laws like SB 1070, which requires state and local law enforcement officers to verify the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally.
An undocumented migrant detected as a result of SB 1070’s “show me your papers” provision can spend several months in a detention center.
According to figures compiled by the Federal government, holding an undocumented immigrant in a detention center costs from $2,400-$3,500 per month.
In 2010, CCA reported profits of $1.67 billion.
“These companies, like CCA, took note that it’s easier to imprison the immigrants. There are almost no lawyers involved in the process and the state legislatures are against them,” Garcia said. EFE