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Profiting From Immigration Injustice

Posted on Feb 14, 2010
AP / Laura Rauch

Captured immigrants are herded onto a bus near the Arizona-Mexico border in this file photo.

By Max Blumenthal

(Page 2)

The judge replied that while he would issue a “recommendation” for the defendant to serve his time in Washington, the Bureau of Prisons had the final say on where he would serve his prison term. “See!” Garcia said, seething.

If the man’s request to serve his jail term near his family was not met—and it clearly would not be—he could expect to do time at the nearby Eloy Detention Center, operated by a controversial private prison firm called Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Nine immigrants have died under mysterious circumstances under CCA’s watch at Eloy. The dead include an ailing 62-year-old Ghanian man imprisoned in 2006 for a misdemeanor he had committed in 1979 and a 36-year-old man from Ecuador who was refused treatment for testicular cancer even as he writhed in pain on the floor of his cell. In 2006, another detainee, a 27-year-old immigrant from Colombia who initially refused treatment for headaches and dizziness died weeks later of a seizure when Eloy medical staff members ignored him for an hour after he collapsed. Reporters and lawyers seeking information on the deaths have been stonewalled by CCA and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE); the death of the Ecuadorean, Felix Frankin Torres-Rodriguez, was never reported by CCA.

When ICE conducted an internal investigation of CCA’s Eloy center in 2006, it found that the facility had “failed on multiple levels to perform basic supervision and provide for the safety and welfare of ICE detainees.” But thanks to Streamline, CCA’s nonunion prison operation continues to bring work to the town of Eloy.

In September, Money magazine ranked the home of Eloy Detention Center, Pinal County, as the county with the fastest rate of job growth in the country. “Over the past several years, we have welcomed three more CCA facilities in Eloy,” boasted Eloy City Manager Joseph Blanton. “CCA has brought nearly 1,500 new jobs to Eloy through these facilities.”


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As CCA expands in Pinal County, so does the bill to American taxpayers. According to David Gonzalez, the U.S. marshal for Arizona, taxpayers pay from $9 million to $11 million a month to incarcerate immigrants at Eloy alone. To preserve the flow, CCA has cultivated high-level political connections on both sides of the aisle. Among its board of directors is former Democratic Sen. Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, a friend of Department of Homeland Security Director Napolitano and the former boss of U.S. Attorney Burke, who worked as a counsel at DeConcini’s law firm. (The courthouse where Streamline takes place is named for DeConcini’s father, Evo, who once was Arizona’s attorney general.) CCA’s lobbyists have become familiar faces in Congress and in statehouses across the country; the company spent $770,000 last year to ply lawmakers.

Lawyer Land

As a new group of second-time border crossers appeared before the judge, one man was questioned about a conviction from 1997 for driving under the influence, a crime that could result in a longer sentence. Speaking through the public defender assigned to the group, the defendant pleaded for mercy. “His wife is a U.S. citizen,” the lawyer informed the judge. “He simply wanted to support his family by picking apples in Washington so he spent hundreds of dollars to take a bus from Acapulco to Nogales. He promises he will never come back to the United States.”

The heartfelt plea seemed to do little good. The judge slapped the man with a 150-day sentence and an admonition. “Don’t come back to the U.S. because it is not worth it,” the judge said in a firm but forced tone. “It’s not worth living in fear all the time. There are a lot of countries around the world that have good economies. You might want to consider immigrating to those countries instead.”

The judge, a bespectacled, dour fellow named Thomas Ferraro, sounded sincere issuing his ludicrous advice. Although he had been appointed head of a virtual kangaroo court for a day each week, Ferraro did not rush through the trial as other magistrates were known to do. He was doing his best to hear the concerns of the defendants, even if there was nothing he could do for them. Garcia whispered to me, “Ferraro feels guilty because it’s a total sham, so he’s putting his personal touch on it. He’s one of the nice ones.”

Finally, Ferraro directed his attention to the 50 or so remaining defendants who were first-time offenders. “Do you give up your rights and plead guilty to the crime of illegal entry?” he asked them.

From the gallery and jury box, a baritone chorus rose up: “Si!” None of the female defendants in the front row uttered a sound, however.

“Do each of you understand the essential elements of your guilty plea?” Ferraro asked.

“Si!” the defendants bellowed again.

Before sentencing the migrants to deportation, Ferraro took one last opportunity to scold them. “This is no way to live your life,” he declared. “Most of you are very young and can go back to Mexico and make a living for yourselves and your family. It will be much easier, believe me, and you won’t be separated from your families.”

While the migrants listened impassively on headphones to a translated version of Ferraro’s lecture, 14 criminal defense attorneys peppered throughout the audience gallery busied themselves jotting notes and playing with their BlackBerries. Though a couple of these lawyers with whom I spoke outside the courtroom seemed passionate in their opposition to Streamline, the vast majority were among the most predatory in town. Their participation in Streamline was motivated by the $110 an hour they earned without exerting a scintilla of effort. They operated as deportation conductors, not advocates. According to Heather Williams, the supervisor of the Tucson Federal Public Defenders Office, the federal government shells out between $6,000 and $12,000 each day to pay the private attorneys who represent Streamline defendants.

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By Maria, February 19, 2010 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Only a comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants could put Streamline out of business.”

The only thing “comprehensive immigration reform”—which means legalization of potentially 30 million people who broke U.S. law to come to the country—will do is continue the flow of people to an already significantly overpopulated country.

I have tremendous sympathy for the pain and suffering that poverty-stricken people have and are enduring to try for a better life. That doesn’t make it okay to break the laws.  Beyond breaking the law to enter the U.S., there’s a whole litany of reasons why accepting tens of millions of undocumented people to the country is wrong. This includes that, among the thousands of law-abiding folks (except for breaking the law to get here, often using false documents and frequently not paying federal or state income taxes), there are thousands of criminals and gang members.

Do you want the country to be a country of laws or not? Do you want the country to be grossly overpopulated and compete with other countries for Third World status? Again, yes, many of the stories are heartbreaking, but how many people do you want to let into the U.S. 30 million? 50 million? 500 million? What is the humane number? There are millions of people on the planet living in poverty. The best thing we could do as a country is to export ideas and assistance to make these countries self-sufficient. A big part of this starts with a population policy.

For more information, I suggest visiting Californians for Population Stabilization.

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By American Observer, February 17, 2010 at 8:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

On the national ID card, that’s an excellent idea, IMO, but I would add, that
they should do it through a national health insurance card, i.e. single

I will also add that they should throw out all the people coming in on visas to
do jobs Americans could do much better.  They are hired only for language
skills, and they have entire health care administrative staffs that are
incompetant and corrupt.

The only reason they’re there, and often in settings working under Mexican
government officials, is because they are supporting the illegal corrupt FEUDAL
labor system coming into the United States from these unbelievably racist and
classist societies.

And our tax dollars are going for that while Americans can’t get health care or

They should expedite the deportation of these entire strata of “legal” workers
too.  Including these former and CORRUPT Mexican consulate officers
preceding over entire health care sectors in the United States.

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By American Observer, February 16, 2010 at 11:41 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This article is very one-sided.  I don’t think they should be warehousing people
in prisons, but the fact is, they shouldn’t be in the United States and should be
sent back to their homelands to apply legally and in freedom.  If people are
booted out, they shouldn’t be coming back in, and then getting a jail sentence.

I agree that NAFTA is a big part of this and they should get rid of it.  But
another part of it is that our government turned its head while scores of people
just kept coming in illegally, and Americans profited from cheap labor that
drove wages down and put Americans out of work in entire industries.

Only the latte sipping liberals who like their inexpensive maids, lawn keepers
and babysitters, cheap vegetables, and nice salaries for themselves like to toot
off about how it’s “not jobs Americans wants” or “not jobs Americans will do.”

Well - uh - sure if it’s 3.00 per hour.  You all support slavery.

Cesar Chavez never supported border hopping.

The reaosn you have people in shackles is because there’s so many people at
once, and they wouldn’t be able to handle them because they’d run, and they
can’t shoot if they run because it’s border crossing not armed robbery.

But it might as well be.

They should throw the useless lawyers out.  But the rest of these people are
expediting it, and making the prisons that much less needed.

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By ofersince72, February 16, 2010 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment

the world could use a lot more like you gerard.

No one will address the root of this….NAFTA.
Even in the original trade agreement it was cited
the numbers of Mexicans that would be driven
homeless and migrants in the first year.

During the Bush admin., when the farm deal of the
Nafta kicked in,  it was again estimated the number
of Mexican farmers that would be driven off their
farm lands….

Totaled,,it is in the millions that have been
displaced and left jobless and hungry….it is a shame that they have to leave their families to work
a job that no american will work just to eat the food
that was grown in their own country.

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By politicky, February 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm Link to this comment

Take a look at the top buddy boy.  The banksters and their lawyer hos.

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By gerard, February 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

I honestly don’t know who is worse, the person who writes comments here, blaming illegals, or the person like me who reads articles like this, feels sympathy and sorrow for them.
Nevertheless, I turn away and do littlel or nothing to stop this atrocious exploitation of innocent, poverty-driven people trying to come here to earn a living they can’t earn in Mexico because the poverty there is grinding and there are no jobs for them.

I try to cover my guilt by helping individual persons in need, and by contributing small sums to support organizations like the American Friends Service Committee working on the border for sanity and justice—but it’s a needle in a haystack.

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By gerard, February 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment

Geez, Looeeez!  What are we going to do when we find out that the earth belongs to everybody and national borders are artificial lines in sand drawn by people who have more, in order to keep out people who have less?  Lots of times they stole the land from the poor people in the first place, but ...but…but…
  When are we going to start voluntary reasonable birth control to cut back on overpopulation? It’s actually so easy!  When are we going to stop wasting millions of dollars on killing people in other countries? That’s not so hard, either,  When are we going to cut back on our overuse and waste of the world’s resources in “rich” countries simply because we can afford to waste, and nobody is strong enough to make us stop? 
  When are we going to recognize that we are all members of one huge human famiy—some young, some old, some one color, some another—all suffering from the same aches and pains, all nurturing the same hopes and fears? When? 
  Will the weapons we have invented, and the cruel hearts we have nurtured kill us all off before we have had a chance to fulfill our potential?

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By NABNYC, February 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment

As I recall, illegal immigrants used to be fairly summarily returned to their country of origin when they were caught, but then the court got involved and decided that anyone inside this country was entitled to “due process” of the law.  “Process” means, among other things, that each person is entitled to some kind of a hearing, whether a full trial or not. 

It is because of that court decision that our country is obligated to house the illegal immigrants caught inside our country, guard them (if they were released inside our country, obviously they would go somewhere else, not return for a deportation hearing), set up an administrative procedure for hearings, etc.  All at tremendous expense to taxpayers.

The only legitimate question is:  are you legally here in the U.S.  The answer in most cases is no.  Nothing else is relevant (except for asylum seekers), and the hearings should take 5 minutes.

If we had a national ID program, all of this could be eliminated.  Tell every immigrant that they must apply to get a national Id card showing that they are lawful permanent residents, or citizens, that they have the legal right to be here.  The ID card should include a photo and fingerprints so it can be easily determined if the person holding the card is the person whose name is on the card.  If they have that card, they can work and live in peace.  If they lose the card, they must report it immediately.  If they don’t have a card, but can prove they got one or are entitled to one, so be it. 

The people who object to the idea of a national ID card are people who support the continued influx of illegal immigrants to take American jobs.  Every person I know who works against a national Id card for immigrants is also a supporter of open borders, at least with Mexico.  They don’t really card about the ID card—they just don’t want the illegal immigrants thrown out.

Most of the people picked up in these sweeps are here illegally.  The only reason they don’t admit that is because they hope somehow they can fool the authorities.  It’s a waste of our money.  There should be strict enforcement of our immigration laws, and people who are here illegally should be deported as expeditiously as possible.

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By Deborah, February 15, 2010 at 11:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What a fluff pro-illegal article.  The illegals are getting justice for the crimes they commit and rightfully so. If they cannot abide by our laws and enter the proper way, then they deserve what they get.  Illegals seem to think our laws don’t apply to them.  Sorry, no sympathy for these criminals.  If they don’t want to go through this, then don’t come here !!

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