Immigrants are good for business and economic growth say immigration advocates and immigrant rights activists. Immigrants take jobs away from citizens and keep wages low contend immigration restrictionists. Macroeconomic studies tend to support the claims of immigration proponents, although restrictionists rightly can point to certain economic sectors to support their arguments against immigration. But there’s one industrial sector that depends both on immigrants and tough immigration enforcement. That’s the private prison industry, which has been experiencing record profits for the last few years. The immigration crackdown is also considered an economic development opportunity for an increasing number of local governments that are building new jails or expanding old ones to make room for arrested immigrants. In many cases, private prison firms team up with county and state governments to attract business from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. Immigrants are the fastest growing sector of the federal detainees and prisoners, and there’s hundreds of millions of dollars to be made by enterprising business and governments. The private prison industry is now well established and is spreading throughout the world. Immigrants were the industry’s first prisoners, and the upsurge in immigrant detention during the Bush administration has reversed a downturn in industry profits at the turn of the century. It all started in 1983 as a result of a policy environment created by the Reagan administration that favored all variants of free-market policies, including privatization of government services such as health care, foreign aid, and the penal system. Two prison corporations – Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group – dominate the immigration detention business. Other key private prison firms that are profiting from the surge in immigrant detention are Cornell Cos. and the Management and Training Corp. Rep. Tom Tancredo spoke earlier this year in favor of the expansion of the GEO Processing Center in in Aurora, Colorado. "Does anyone think we don't have 1,100 illegal aliens in the area?” he said, “I don't think that there's much to worry about. If there are 1,500 beds available I guarantee you they will be used." GEO was seeking the county government’s permission to expand its 400-bed ICE detention center in Aurora to make room for another 1,100 detainees. Immigrant-rights advocates and opponents of private prisons spoke out against the expansion, which the county eventually approved.
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