It’s interesting to see how a few media outlets are bucking the trend toward covering Miley Cyrus at the expense of real issues. Today, I’m pleased to see The Atlantic quoting Anna Campbell, the National Network Coordinator of our Access to Justice unit, in an incisive investigative piece on prison privatization and immigration.
In her article today, “The Winners in Immigration Control: Private Prisons,” reporter Aubrey Pringle quotes Campbell in the company of several of our key friends and allies, including Andrea Black of Detention Watch Network.
Since 2003, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement was created and government crackdowns on undocumented aliens increased, private prisons have gained business, with industry profits more than doubling.
The prisons’ gain is the government’s loss – the profits are being generated from spending on immigration detention, which has also doubled over the past eight years. The National Immigration Forum reported earlier this month that the cost of detaining an immigrant averages $159 a day.
Based on her interview with Campbell, she further writes:
Community-based support programs are another option to consider. A pilot program by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service works with ICE to find immigrants in deportation proceedings who would most benefit from release. Participants receive a number of services – including housing, case management and legal representation.
The goal is to facilitate long-term integration to society, including compliance with immigration mandates. The voluntary program is specifically focused on individuals seeking protection in the U.S. and offers such services as medical and mental health care, financial advice, language classes, and civics classes.
“Our primary goal is not enforcement, rather providing client-centered services that foster independence and self-sufficiency for people starting a new life in the U.S.,” Anna Campbell, national network coordinator of the program, called Access to Justice, said in an email.
The program served nearly 100 people in 2012 and is on track to do the same this year. The program’s efficacy is still to be determined – hard data is not available because most of the participants’ legal cases have not yet concluded.
We’re grateful to Pringle and The Atlantic for tackling this topic. For more information on alternatives to detention, please check out our report, Unlocking Liberty, and read about LIRS work for migrants impacted by detention.