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Immigrant prison cash flows to SD politicos

Atkins, Gonzalez, Fletcher got big bucks from detention firm

Otay Mesa Detention Center
Otay Mesa Detention Center

San Diego politicos and business types have been unsympathetic to president Donald Trump, but one major border enterprise that has been a big campaign provider to legislators of both parties here could be in line for a boost from the administration’s immigration crackdown.

Corrections Corporation of America changed its name to CoreCivic in October 2016.

Officially known as the Otay Mesa Detention Center, the 1482-bed facility on Calzada de La Fuente is operated by CoreCivic, formerly known as CCA — Corrections Corporation of America — for the U.S. government's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of Homeland Security.

Last August, there was talk by the departing Obama administration of shifting detainees held by for-profit immigrant holding facilities back to those run by the federal government.

Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say Homeland Security should "stop using the for-profit detention facilities with the most notorious records of sexual abuse, detainee deaths, and denial of medical care. These facilities include the South Texas Detention Complex, Otay Mesa Detention Facility in San Diego, Eloy Detention Facility in Arizona, and Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico."

Last spring, a series of Mother Jones stories written by a reporter who got a job as a guard inside CCA's Louisiana operation, found "conditions at the facility were deplorable. A poorly-trained staff lacked the support to respond to growing violence."

“Every guard that I worked with complained about the place,” reporter Shane Bauer told the Columbia Journalism Review.

“I was surprised by how chaotic it was. I saw people get stabbed right in front of me.”

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton

The prison proprietor threatened legal action, said Bauer. "CCA’s counsel claimed I was bound by the company’s code of conduct, which states, ‘All employees must safeguard the company’s trade secrets and confidential information.’”

Toni Atkins

As criticism grew, Corrections Corporation of America issued a September 2 news release drawing attention to the company's 2014 Human Rights Policy Statement.

Brian Maienschein

"We recognize the inherent dignity of the human person and the need to treat every individual with respect. As we have since our inception, we share the responsibility of our government partners when they entrust individuals to our care," says the document. "No person should ever be subjected to any cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment."

Ben Hueso

In December, the Obama administration’s Homeland Security Advisory Council voted 17 to 5 for “a measured but deliberate shift away from the private prison model," per an account by The Intercept.

Lorena Gonzalez and Nathan Fletcher

But the action was expected to do little or nothing to slow the department’s move to private operators, whose lobbyists contributed heavily to Trump's Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton until she vowed to stop accepting private prison money after the donation bundling was uncovered by The Intercept.

Rocky Chavez

The Trump forces also reportedly got private prison cash.

Juan Vargas

"I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons," Trump said during a town-hall meeting moderated by MSNBC's Chris Matthews last March. "It seems to work a lot better."

Now comes the president's sweeping January 25 executive order on immigration.

"The Secretary shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico," says the order.

Specifics of possible effects on Otay Mesa are not yet known, though some believe that congressional action would be needed to appropriate sufficient cash to expand the border prison.

In addition to Trump and Clinton, San Diego politicos have also been beneficiaries of campaign largesse from Corrections Corporation of America and its executives.

Among top legislative recipients was Democratic state senator Toni Atkins, the former Assembly speaker, who received a total of $10,200 from 2011 to 2016, per data from the California secretary of state's office.

Republican assemblyman Brian Maienschein got $6000. Former assemblyman and current senator Ben Hueso collected $3000, and Assembly Democrat Lorena Gonzalez received $4000.

GOP assemblyman Rocky Chavez got $1000. Ex-assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a Republican when he was in the legislature, received $2000, the figures show. Juan Vargas, now a Democratic member of congress, got $3000 when he was a member of the state senate.

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Otay Mesa Detention Center
Otay Mesa Detention Center

San Diego politicos and business types have been unsympathetic to president Donald Trump, but one major border enterprise that has been a big campaign provider to legislators of both parties here could be in line for a boost from the administration’s immigration crackdown.

Corrections Corporation of America changed its name to CoreCivic in October 2016.

Officially known as the Otay Mesa Detention Center, the 1482-bed facility on Calzada de La Fuente is operated by CoreCivic, formerly known as CCA — Corrections Corporation of America — for the U.S. government's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of Homeland Security.

Last August, there was talk by the departing Obama administration of shifting detainees held by for-profit immigrant holding facilities back to those run by the federal government.

Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say Homeland Security should "stop using the for-profit detention facilities with the most notorious records of sexual abuse, detainee deaths, and denial of medical care. These facilities include the South Texas Detention Complex, Otay Mesa Detention Facility in San Diego, Eloy Detention Facility in Arizona, and Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico."

Last spring, a series of Mother Jones stories written by a reporter who got a job as a guard inside CCA's Louisiana operation, found "conditions at the facility were deplorable. A poorly-trained staff lacked the support to respond to growing violence."

“Every guard that I worked with complained about the place,” reporter Shane Bauer told the Columbia Journalism Review.

“I was surprised by how chaotic it was. I saw people get stabbed right in front of me.”

Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton

The prison proprietor threatened legal action, said Bauer. "CCA’s counsel claimed I was bound by the company’s code of conduct, which states, ‘All employees must safeguard the company’s trade secrets and confidential information.’”

Toni Atkins

As criticism grew, Corrections Corporation of America issued a September 2 news release drawing attention to the company's 2014 Human Rights Policy Statement.

Brian Maienschein

"We recognize the inherent dignity of the human person and the need to treat every individual with respect. As we have since our inception, we share the responsibility of our government partners when they entrust individuals to our care," says the document. "No person should ever be subjected to any cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment."

Ben Hueso

In December, the Obama administration’s Homeland Security Advisory Council voted 17 to 5 for “a measured but deliberate shift away from the private prison model," per an account by The Intercept.

Lorena Gonzalez and Nathan Fletcher

But the action was expected to do little or nothing to slow the department’s move to private operators, whose lobbyists contributed heavily to Trump's Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton until she vowed to stop accepting private prison money after the donation bundling was uncovered by The Intercept.

Rocky Chavez

The Trump forces also reportedly got private prison cash.

Juan Vargas

"I do think we can do a lot of privatizations and private prisons," Trump said during a town-hall meeting moderated by MSNBC's Chris Matthews last March. "It seems to work a lot better."

Now comes the president's sweeping January 25 executive order on immigration.

"The Secretary shall take all appropriate action and allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico," says the order.

Specifics of possible effects on Otay Mesa are not yet known, though some believe that congressional action would be needed to appropriate sufficient cash to expand the border prison.

In addition to Trump and Clinton, San Diego politicos have also been beneficiaries of campaign largesse from Corrections Corporation of America and its executives.

Among top legislative recipients was Democratic state senator Toni Atkins, the former Assembly speaker, who received a total of $10,200 from 2011 to 2016, per data from the California secretary of state's office.

Republican assemblyman Brian Maienschein got $6000. Former assemblyman and current senator Ben Hueso collected $3000, and Assembly Democrat Lorena Gonzalez received $4000.

GOP assemblyman Rocky Chavez got $1000. Ex-assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a Republican when he was in the legislature, received $2000, the figures show. Juan Vargas, now a Democratic member of congress, got $3000 when he was a member of the state senate.

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Comments
6

Personal ethics and integrity should preclude Latino Democrats from taking campaign money from private prison corporations that hold undocumented migrants near the US - Mexico border where we all live. Anglo Democratic politicians in San Diego should share such scruples. But unlimited Citizens United money floods our politics to the detriment of politicians from both parties, diminishes the reliability of our elected representatives and the value of our votes. It's pathetic.

Jan. 30, 2017

"Personal ethics and integrity" in San Diego politician? What planet do you live on?

Jan. 31, 2017

"Immigrants" do not go to jails or prisons or holding cells. Illegal aliens do. An immigrant has secured permission to enter our nation. An illegal alien has not.

Stop the hand-wringing PC BS.

Jan. 31, 2017

Really? I thought this last week was all about immigrants being put in detention and holding cells. I remind you, tough guy, that San Diego would stop functioning without its "illegal aliens" working in hotel housekeeping and the kitchens of Gaslamp restaurants. Maybe even you could extend some appreciation and respect before they are rounded up and deported.

Jan. 31, 2017

Amazing that the wealthy hotel/restaurant/tourist industry relies on low wage low/no benefit workers both legal and illegal and have no problem with the taxpayer picking up the tab for welfare. Respect and appreciation for the workers, yes. For the employers, never. They are crooks.

Feb. 2, 2017

Politicians operate on money. Money buys access. Follow the money and you will find who operates the political puppet. Money talks and BS walks.

Feb. 2, 2017

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