In a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union, they challenged the administration of current United States President Joe Biden and its handling of the immigration detention systems as private prison companies play an increasingly dominant role.
Biden had promised to cease using private prison companies for immigration detention as a candidate during the 2020 candidate. In 2021, he even announced that there should be “no private prisons, period” during a demonstration demanding the end of immigration detention.
As of July 2023, ICE detains an average of 30,003 people daily, a significant increase from the administration’s start in January 2021, when the average was 15,444 detainees daily. Alarmingly, 90.8% of individuals detained by ICE are held in private prison facilities compared to 81% during the Trump administration. During the Trump administration, ICE expanded the immigration detention system by 50 percent, signing contracts to open over 40 new detention facilities.
Private prison corporations like GEO Group and CoreCivic have generated substantial revenue from ICE contracts. GEO Group has earned $1.05 billion from ICE contracts in 2022 alone. Congress appropriated $2.9 billion to hold 34,000 people in ICE detention each day for the 2023 fiscal year.
Biden’s Executive Order failed to end the use of private prisons for those in federal criminal custody, as private corporations found workarounds by contracting with local governments, who then contracted with the Department of Justice to extend their contracts.
Advocates are now calling for reducing the number of detainees, investing in alternatives to detention, and halting the profit generated from the suffering of detained immigrants.