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Immigrants for Sale Explores Private Prison Industry

I am a huge fan of the project, Cuéntame (which means "tell me your story"), a facebook page and website that is all about sharing stories. Among the project’s focus is immigration and immigrant rights; Cuéntame has produced short and savvy popular education videos about issues ranging from boycotting Arizona for their SB1070 law, to a video exposé on the tea party, to Alabama’s recent anti-immigrant law.

The video Immigrants for Sale explores the linkages between anti-immigrant laws, the detention of migrants, and private prison corporations in the U.S. This powerful animation shows detention as part of a larger system of profiteering and forces us to think about who profits and who suffers, raising a lot of questions about the realities of detention centers and whether they are in fact humane facilities.

Did you know for instance that:

  • The Department of Homeland Security’s immigration detention program, operated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), cost taxpayers over $1.7 billion during FY2010.
  • The $1.7 billion budget provides ICE with funding to maintain its current detention capacity of 33,400 people in over 500 facilities on any given night, including operational expenses.
  • The federal government contracts with private prison operators to detain immigrants. The two largest private prison companies in the U.S. each receive over ten percent of their revenue directly from ICE.
  • The average cost of detaining an immigrant is approximately $122 per person/ per day. There are more humane alternatives to detention, including a combination of reporting and electronic monitoring, which are significantly cheaper, with some programs costing as little as $12 per day.
  • In 2001, the U.S. detained approximately 95,000 individuals. By 2009, the number of individuals detained annually in the U.S. had grown to approximately 380,000.
  • The average daily population of detained immigrants has grown from approximately 5,000 in 1994, to 19,000 in 2001, and to over 30,000 by the end of 2009.1

Watch the video and tell us what you think:


1 Source: Detention Watch Network, http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/node/2381


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