(NEW YORK) MintPress – Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is not the only one hailing Monday’s Supreme Court decision to uphold a key part of Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, which critics said will leave thousands of families living in fear. GOP lawmakers and powerful corporate lobby groups, especially the private prison industry, are applauding the […]
(NEW YORK) MintPress – Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is not the only one hailing Monday’s Supreme Court decision to uphold a key part of Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigrants, which critics said will leave thousands of families living in fear. GOP lawmakers and powerful corporate lobby groups, especially the private prison industry, are applauding the ruling as well.
The Supreme Court supported the most controversial aspect of S.B. 1070, the “show me your papers” provision, which requires police to ask about the immigration status of people they stop for lawful reasons, if they suspect those people of being illegal immigrants
After the law was passed by Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2010, the Obama administration challenged it in court, saying the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government sole authority over immigration policy.
In a statement reacting to the court’s ruling, Brewer called it a “victory for the rule of law” and a “legal victory” for her state.
It was also a victory for those who profit from the detention of illegal immigrants, including the two biggest for-profit prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group Inc.
Immigration lawyers say that the “show me your papers” requirement could bring more undocumented immigrant into the federal enforcement system, leading to more detentions.
“It provides a real boon, a real growth opportunity for the private prison industry in the State of Arizona,” said the executive director of the National Immigration Forum, Ali Noorani.
Indeed, undocumented immigrants have become the fastest-growing segment of the American prison population since the government began cracking down a few years ago.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials normally contract directly with small towns and counties, who then subcontract to private operators like CCA and the GEO Group, publicly traded companies that posted revenues of more than $1.5 billion each last year.
Both have more than doubled revenues from the detention of immigrants since 2005.
“Private prison companies are very explicit that they think the growth area for them is federal detention, and that means primarily immigration detention,” said Emily Tucker, director of policy and advocacy for immigrants’ rights group Detention Watch Network. “They’re hoping this will mean more contracts for more detention beds.”
In a 2010 GEO Group earnings call after Brewer signed the Arizona law, the company’s then chief operating officer, Wayne Calabrese, said, “I can only believe that the opportunities at the federal level are going to continue apace as a result of what’s happening. That to me at least suggests there’s going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do.”
After Monday’s ruling, A CCA spokesman said that “under longstanding policy, CCA does not and has not ever taken positions on or promoted any sentencing or detention legislation.”
But the company has strong ties in Arizona, where it operates three detention centers housing nearly 2,000 undocumented immigrants, and critics have questioned its relationship with lawmakers.
Several CCA lobbyists in Phoenix have worked for or consulted with Brewer, and former U.S. Senator Dennis DeConcini is on CCA’s board of directors.
And until 2010, CCA senior director Laurie Shanblum sat on the executive task for public safety and elections of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of conservative legislators and business representatives.
Funded by 23 corporations, including Exxon Mobil, AT&T, Coca Cola and Koch Industries, which comprise its “private enterprise board,” ALEC writes and supplies fully drafted bills to state legislators. On its website, it claims that it has more than 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law.
Also on the ALEC executive task force for public safety and elections: Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce, who introduced S.B. 1070. Indeed, parts of the law, including the “show me your papers” provision, are exactly the same as the ALEC public safety task force’s model legislation, according to the Center for Media and Democracy.
Said the CCA spokesman, “Any suggested connection between our company and Arizona’s immigration law is baseless.”
Future litigation likely
Meanwhile, accusations of racial profiling could call “show me your papers” into question in the future.
“Our critics are already preparing new litigation tactics in response to their loss at the Supreme Court, and undoubtedly will allege inequities in the implementation of the law,” said Brewer.
The ruling on S.B. 1070 is likely to be just one in a series of court decisions about the role states can play in preventing illegal immigration; five states — Alabama, Georgia, Utah, Indiana and Tennessee — have adopted laws similar to Arizona’s, and others are debating legislation.
CCA and the GEO Group will be watching closely.