Advocates and organizations for immigrants are calling on the Biden administration to end federal contracts with private detention centers. Their reasoning behind that is aside from the detained immigrants who have no criminal record are being kept in custody, the companies who own the detention centers are making a profit off their detainment.
Federal contracts with private companies would be part of the reform citizens have been calling for in the immigration system.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union’s senior advocacy and policy counsel, “they have a lot of room here. We think it is a historic opportunity to dismantle this system of massive incarceration,” with the reduced number of detainees due to the coronavirus pandemic.
During Biden’s first week in office, he signed an executive order to phase out the use of private federal prisons. In his campaign for the primaries, he took the stand of not believing in private companies being used for detention centers for private prisons. The order’s catch is that it did not include detention centers, which could be misleading.
Before the pandemic began, in January 2020, 81% of immigrants in ICE custody were being detained in centers privately owned by corporations, according to the ACLU Human Rights Watch and the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Under the Trump administration, 91% of those detained by ICE were confined to privately owned centers, which comes as no surprise since his tenure focused on keeping immigrants out of the country or imprisoned.
More worrying still is that most of the detained people are Latino and Black, an example of the perpetuation of systemic racism in the United States.
In a USA Today report, ICE spent $1.8 billion on detentions in 2009. That number has only increased in 11 years, with the fiscal year budget for 2020 being a whopping $3.11 billion.
At the beginning of 2020, there were 182,869 people detained, according to DHS data. That number fell drastically due to the pandemic, forcing immigrants to be released and fewer arrests. On January 22, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) reported 14,195 people still detained.
Unsurprisingly, advocates are worried the Biden administration will continue to have the same approach by not ending the contracts but instead just not renewing them. Trump signed multiple contracts that would last ten years, leaving a lasting impression on the immigration system.
Though Biden’s efforts show he wants to pull back on the current immigration system, it does not seem that he will meet all the demands immigration advocates are calling for, but only time will tell.