Private prison corporations could cash in on Trump’s immigration policy even more than you think

Via In The Public Interest | Jeremy Mohler

Buried under all the bad news this week was a glimmer of progress. No, not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win in New York’s 14th Congressional District — that’s way more than a glimmer. I’m talking about the order from a California judge to reunite separated undocumented immigrant families within 30 days.

Who knows whether and how the Trump administration will implement the order? But one thing’s for sure: if Trump continues to criminalize immigration, the need for detention space will continue to grow.

That’s music to the ears of the private prison industry, particularly CoreCivic and GEO Group, two publicly traded corporations that currently detain over two-thirds of undocumented immigrants. It’s music to their investors too — both have seen their stocks skyrocket in recent weeks.

Because this is what they’ve been waiting for. As we document in a new report, CoreCivic and GEO Group both have been getting in the game of offering loans to governments to build jails, prisons, and detention centers. Both have turned private equity financing, also known as “public-private partnerships,” into a central growth strategy after they became Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in 2013. In other words, private prison corporations want to be landlords.

Why? Because REIT status allows them to dodge corporate-level taxation. Last year alone, GEO Group avoided almost $44 million in taxes.

So here comes the federal government desperate for more cages to lock up undocumented immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security is considering adding space for 15,000 more adults and children in family detention centers. The agency already hired GEO Group in 2017 to finance, design, build, operate, and maintain a new 1,000-bed adult detention facility in Texas, which is expected to be up and running later this year.

All of this has the corporations salivating. A couple weeks ago, CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger told his company’s investors, this is “the most robust kind of sales environment we’ve seen in probably 10 years, not only on the federal side with the dynamics with ICE and [U.S.] Marshals, but also with these activities on the state side.”

GEO Group and CoreCivic now stand more ready than ever to, as they describe it, “partner” with the Trump administration and “understand and accommodate their changing needs.” And they’re going to dodge a ton of taxes doing it.

 

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