Such an arrangement would provide Congress with massive leverage in shaping enforcement policies, including on immigrant detention. Rubio has previously cosponsored legislation to expand Operation Streamline, a federal enforcement program that makes illegal entry a criminal offense in some jurisdictions and provides for the incarceration of border crossers.
Currently, Rubio is working with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) on an amendment that would require a far greater percentage of border crossers to be apprehended before any legalization could go forward, according to a report by Politico.
GEO Group generated $1.6 billion in revenues in 2011, of which $640 million came from overall federal contracts. (The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency currently has funding for 34,000 total detainees daily, across public and private facilities, and is directed by Congress to fill those beds.) The company has stated that immigrant detention policy is important to its business. “Any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them,” the company wrote in its 2011 report to shareholders.
However, policies that would increase detention are not the only ways that GEO Group could obtain contracts from an immigration policy overhaul, as the company’s lobbying on its Alternatives to Detention programs indicates. By offering an array of services and keeping a close eye on (or hand in) the policy process, the company could preserve its access to federal contracts under several plausible paths for reform.
As floor debate opens and negotiations on the reform bill continue, reporters should follow closely-and fairly-to see how Rubio’s powerbroker role plays out for a home-state company with strong ties to his office, and its future resting on the details of the legislation.
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