In the early days of Donald Trump's presidential reign, he issued a series of highly controversial executive orders regarding immigration, one of which dealt explicitly with security along the United States-Mexico border.
Signed into effect by authoritarian impulses and supported by a short-sited administration, the order promised the infamous wall, expedited deportation proceedings, and more immigration detention centers, among other things. People with ties that span the border have been scrambling to prepare themselves for what's to come. Judging by recent news, it's here.
The Trump administration has awarded its first federal contract for a new immigration detention facility to GEO Group, a private prison company. They plan to build in Texas, and it's a 10-year, $110 million deal for a 1,000 bed facility that would put Trump's immigration plans off to an expectedly expensive start. However, it is projected to generate "$44 million in annualized revenue and returns on investment," which makes it much more palatable to any supporters still on the fence.
GEO already has a formidable presence in Conroe, where Trump's detention center is to be built, as well as throughout Texas and the world. It has more than a dozen facilities, ranging from local jails to immigration detention centers, throughout the state, and 143 facilities across the globe.
The company has used that wealth and power to make important allies. According USA Today, GEO donated $250,000 to Trump's inauguration day festivities, and a subsidiary of the company gave $225,000 to a super PAC that backed Trump's presidential campaign.
Immigration rights groups know this signals the true beginning of Trump's plan to decimate America's undocumented immigrant population.
“We’re not surprised, but we are deeply disappointed that the administration is not only lining the pockets of the private-prison industry but expanding detention,” Bob Libal, the execute director for Grassroots Leadership, an Austin-based immigration rights and private prison watch dog group, told The Texas Tribune.
However, GEO is understandably thrilled, and other private prison companies see a golden opportunity to turn immigrant detention into sky-high profit. The Trump administration has proposed that to fast-track immigration deportations, the Department of Homeland Security should double the number of people held in detention centers daily. That's approximately 80,000 people a day and, to corporate America, a lot of money.
While advocates of undocumented immigrants were certainly expecting a government crack down, the GEO contract has forced them to step back and take a second look at the potential scope of Trump's plan. Its possible scale is jolting to some.
GEO already has 3,000 empty beds available for illegal immigrants in the U.S., and The Washington Post reported that 33,000 more beds are ready and waiting. Judging by Trump's executive order and this new contract, it won't stop there. Staying true to his hypocritical soul, the president appears intent on throwing away millions in order to uproot lives after boasting at how effectively he could manage the country on a lean budget.
"Frankly this surprises me," said Carl Takei, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project, about the GEO contract to the Associated Press. "This raises the question both of how much ICE is actually planning to expand its already enormous detention system and where they're going to get the money for all this."