Now that some of the dust has settled regarding Arizona's harsh immigration law, in which police are directed to detain any person suspected of being in the country illegally and who cannot produce papers to prove otherwise, NPR has filed a report highlighting the disturbing influence that a for-profit prison company had in the creation of the bill.



From the report:

"NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry."

The story goes on to highlight how the bill's sponsor, Arizona Republican state Senator Russell Pearce, presented his ideas at a meeting of powerful corporate leaders in Washington, DC, including executives from the private Corrections Corporation of America, who claimed in a memo that, "they expect to bring in 'a significant portion of our revenues' from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants."

The consortium, American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, describes itself as a conservative public-private partnership, in which business leaders often write drafts of bills that legislatures eventually adopt and governors sign. NPR says that this is not illegal in itself, but reports that scores of cosponsors of the Arizona bill received campaign contributions from CCA and other private prison companies. Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill, creating public uproar on both sides, and thus advancing the immigration debate just a bit further, and, seemingly, a bit to the right.

Even if nothing was done illegally in the creation of the Arizona bill, what does this process say to the nature of "democracy" in our state legislatures? Further, what about the "yuck" factor here? A private prison company, a concept that seems ripe for corruption and abuse in itself, sponsoring a bill to give them more "clients," in this case, creating systems and processes to deliver more "criminals." Something seems askew here. The power that corporations and big money hold in our political system is something deserving of scrutiny and attention, and in Arizona, families and individuals are being victimized, perhaps for something as outrageous as someone's bottom line.

Comments

Anonymous | 10/29/2010 - 7:43pm
I find some of the comments here reflexive as opposed to trying to add to the understanding of the issue.


 ''Do we have ''a massive influx of new immigrants''?  I thought the numbers were down considerably. ''


Then there is no immigration problem and why are we discussing it.


''Of all the underemployed, the illegal immigrant is the most underemployed. ''

If they are underemployed or unemployed why are they here? They are here because they can get jobs.

''Certainly, getting rid of the illegal immigrants will do nothing to improve the situation of unemployment and underemployment since no unemployed person will relocate when to take those low paying jobs in the parts of the country where illegal immigrants are concentrated.''
 
The illegals get as much as $25 an hour near where I live in suburban New York City for many of the jobs they take.  And they are located in just about any area you can name.  Unemployment is very high in California and there are many illegal aliens there.

Unemployment is hardest amongst the less educated and this is who a lot of the illegal aliens compete with.  To say that they do not affect each other is ridiculous.
Ashley Green | 10/29/2010 - 11:52am
Well, Jesus certainly does demand that we live our faith in a radical way in my honest opinion.  I won't get into the specifics of what I have or have not done to live up to this moral imperative in my own life, but if I fail to practice what I preach, then shame on me.  If some of you have no problem with a prison company lobbying for tougher immigration laws for specific the purpose of having more bodies to imprison (including women and children if you listened to the NPR report), then there is really nothing else I can add that is likely to change your thinking.  I am truly glad that you have never had to walk a mile in the shoes of those for whom you have such little compassion.
Anonymous | 10/29/2010 - 11:31am
Hey Ashley -

Jesus would say, "Ashley, invite a couple of this illegal aliens to come live in your house and feed them."  Are you willing to do that, Ashley, without considering the financial burden and safety issues to your family that would come along with that?  Now, ratchet those concerns up to the country level and see that the same issues that you would have are the same that the US Government has on a grander scale. 

So, like you might, the country needs to balance issues of economics and crime against the desire to help those in need.  And it has done so with its immigration policy that provides a legal means for people to enter the country, become productive citizens with a leg up from the government, and be carefully monitored for potential criminal activity.  The system is out of control and out of balance, because of a lack of enforcement by th government.  You call it exploitation; others call it the reality of a country's mandate to protect its citizens.
Marie Rehbein | 10/29/2010 - 11:14am
Ashley,

I am not convinced that people objecting to the idea that the for-profit prison system in Arizona is to credit/blame for the illegal immigration law in Arizona are necessarily indifferent the plight of the poor and the oppressed. 

There are many different ways to look at the issue of illegal immigration.  One might be that being more vigilant against it and less accomodating after it has happened would better protect these people from exploitation.  Another would be that number of illegal immigrants inidcates that the process for legal immigration is too restrictive and needs to be changed.  Still, another is the one most often reported in the media (because the media so likes to report things in a way that makes them sound most outrageous in order to engage reader/viewers/listeners), which is that illegal immigrants are both hated and lured to this country.

Another thing to consider is that not all people who have immigrated to this country are illegal.  This thought occurred to a naturalized citizen friend of mine who spoke with an accent and who was not in the habit of carrying around her naturalization papers.  She lived in Arizona, and the law made her very anxious about what she and her US born children might have to experience as a result of the Arizona law.  She did not want to become the case that shows the flaws of that legislation.

I think it perfectly valid to ask "What's up in Arizona?"  I think it goes deeper than a corporation influencing legislation that would serve its bottom line, but that does not make that influence ethical.  I think it is unethical, but not because I feel one way or the other about illegal immigration.  Others may think that it is ethical no matter how they feel about illegal immigration, because they have no problem with companies profiting from anything.
Ashley Green | 10/29/2010 - 9:38am
I must say that I am somewhat surprised and disturbed by some of the responses to this article.  I guess I am beating a dead horse at this point, but is it really so hard to see how the deliberate exploitation of the impoverished and powerless for financial gain flies in the face of Catholic social teaching?  Can we not, for once, put our politics aside in order to stand firmly on the side of those who are without power and subject to abuse and exploitation? Whose side is Jesus on in this issue?  The oppressed or the wealthy and the powerful?  I’m sorry, but some of you seem to believe that standing up for the rights and dignity of the poor and powerless somehow makes you a liberation theology zealot.
Marie Rehbein | 10/29/2010 - 9:23am
"The power that corporations and big money hold in our political system is something deserving of scrutiny and attention."

Maybe the prison company has nothing to do with creating such a strong sentiment against illegal immigrants in Arizona, but the above statement is true nonetheless.
Anonymous | 10/29/2010 - 12:29am
I appreciate the fact that many people don't like the AZ law, but this post almost reads as if the prison company wrote the legislation that makes undocumented immigration illegal.  Illegal aliens are already illegal.  

The law that the prison company helped write is a law to enforce the existing law (that the feds failed to enforce). Consulting experts from a law enforcement entity, such as a prison company, to help write law enforcement legislation makes a lot of sense.  I bet they also consulted some police officers, all of whom have a personal interest in securing their jobs.



Ashley Green | 10/28/2010 - 3:19pm
Jeff,
Most of us are aware that special interest influence on the political / legislative process is, in itself, nothing new.  And probably the majority of us agree that it is a problem.  What is particulary disturbing about this case, however, is that a privately owned correctional company was directly involved in the drafting of legislation that was specifically designed to yeild it (the company) a windfall of human capital to exploit for profit.  In order to make their proposed prisons a necessity, they needed a tougher immigration law that would yield the human bodies that would then have to be imprisoned.  That the people to be imprisoned were human beings in situations of desperation was absolutely irrelevant to the company that pushed the legislation and to the legislators that its representatives successfully lobbied.  This is somewhat like Planned Parenthood fighting against any abortion regulation so that it can maintain a steady supply of fetuses to abort and maintain financial health.  Both situations are morally repugnant.
J STANGLE | 10/28/2010 - 2:57pm
For some reason, the citizens of Arizona are and have been stirred up by outlandish claims concerning, "illegals". Things like that they are all drug dealers, carry weapons, and worse, claims by officials that Korans were found in the desert, obviously disgarded by terrorists and such. What is behind all this? Partially 9/11 and the rush to build up so called, "Homeland Security" and the, "Border Patrol" and the funds they bring in, - to say nothing of the humongous military expenditures certain groups will benefit from.  Partially the economy in general and perceived scarcity of job. The fact is, the, "illegals" were and are not, "illegal". They were gladly and willingly brought in by all sorts of contractors including builders during the housing boom. I don't know the legal term, but when you entice and use someone you have no right to then disclaim responsibility for their coming and working; hence, they are not, "illegal" in any real sense. Having made their fortunes off the backs of these guys, they now want to discard them and act the savior of society!
And, as far as private prisons, it was just a few months ago that three fugitives from the private prison in Kingman, AZ were able to escape out a back door and cause weeks of intensive law enforcement efforts to catch them. They were caught, but not until they murdered a couple in New Mexico. All three fugitives were in for life and for murder convictions or attempted murder.
But, overall, this is all small potatoes compared to the corruption of almost every value in this society by parties interested in the almighty dollar - from war profiteers, to those gaming the mainstay of the capitalist system, the free market. Oh, yes, and doctors who run abortion clinics! We already have more people in prison in this country than almost any other country - what more can be done or is it a hopeless case of corruption of the whole society?
ed gleason | 10/28/2010 - 2:30pm
Nothing new here.. Pa. had a scandal about for profit juvenile detention a few years ago..http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kids_for_cash_scandal... judges being involved/bribed in filling up the beds.
also Ireland had complaints to police from Catholic run detention centers that not enough kids were being sentenced to fill their bed count. Also California prison guard unions are famous for rewarding the-lock-em up and throw-away-the key politicians. .
The biggest danger we face is the  right wing love of  free enterprise so much that  gun carrying military contractors, bounty hunters and other mercenary services will be  employed thru out our country. I also bet they will use the Catholic subsidiarity notion to justify this plague. No shame here either.  
 
Anonymous | 10/28/2010 - 1:57pm
Nationwide polls repeatedly show a stable majority supporting the Arizona bill (Doesn't mean its right substantively).  Arizona's duly elected legislature and duly elected governor both passed and signed the bill into law.  What about the democratic process is corrupted in these facts?  Just because you don't like a particular piece of legislation or because you lose an argument does not mean that the other side is, ipso facto, corrupt or corrupting.  THAT conclusion seems more dangerous than the "bottom line".  In some ways this is reminicisent of Pres. Obama's co-opting Big Pharma into supporting the health care bill.  Big Insurance is certain to benefit from the insurance mandate.  Did that corrupt the Democratic process?  What about breaking his pledge re: open, transparent negotiations?  In the so-called "climate change" legislation, "green" companies supported the legislation and it is certain that their "bottom line" will be served by investments in that technology.  Does THAT corrupt the democratic process, or is it just when you lose an argument/vote that the process is questioned?
Vince Killoran | 10/30/2010 - 12:55pm
I'm not certain what Cosgrove's means in his reply to my query about whether there actually was, as one bogger claims a "massive" increase in illegal immigration, i.e., "Then there is no immigration problem and why are we discussing it."

Is there or isn't there?  Is this a debate about an actual "problem" or something else? Let's get the facts straight before we even start to discuss the more difficult questions.  This reminds me of the anti-crime/prison-building frenzy a few years that occurred as crime rates were declining.
Marie Rehbein | 10/29/2010 - 9:09pm
'Of all the underemployed, the illegal immigrant is the most underemployed. '

If they are underemployed or unemployed why are they here? They are here because they can get jobs.

They are here because they cannot get jobs where they come from.  That is not the same thing as taking your job.  They do the work that you would not be interested in doing.  Many of the jobs they take are temporary assignments with no benefits, including, of course, social security.  Some of them are educated and have degrees, but end up cleaning houses where I live.  The money they send home goes a long way there, so they are willing to take jobs that it's not worth your time to do.

I find your responses very unenlightening in that the amount to assertion without substance, JR Cosgrove.
Marie Rehbein | 10/29/2010 - 4:18pm
JR Cosgrove,

If we have a problem with unemployement and underemployment it has nothing to do with the presence of illegal immigrants.  Of all the underemployed, the illegal immigrant is the most underemployed.  Certainly, getting rid of the illegal immigrants will do nothing to improve the situation of unemployment and underemployment since no unemployed person will relocate when to take those low paying jobs in the parts of the country where illegal immigrants are concentrated.
Anonymous | 10/29/2010 - 12:42pm
Has anyone defended the Prison Company here?  I am appalled at the story but still support the Arizona law.  My problem is that we have procedures for immigration and it is obvious that they are not working in most cases and that is what has to be addressed.  But there is no intelligent discussion of immigration here.


A few months ago one of the authors made fun of Sarah Palin but she essentially came close to getting it right while the blogger did not understand what was being said.  The Catholic Bishops of Arizona issued a decree which I thought was pretty reasonable and came close to what I think the start should be.  It is a thorny issue when we have close to 10% unemployment and 20% underemployment to somehow not consider the issue of immigration and unemployment together.  Can we have a massive influx of new immigrants when we currently cannot employ a large percentage of those who are already citizens. 
Vince Killoran | 10/29/2010 - 4:04pm
Do we have "a massive influx of new immigrants"?  I thought the numbers were down considerably.