Via Miami New Times | Manuel Madrid
The political price of being a cog in the Trump administration’s immigrant detention and deportation machine is getting steeper. Outrage over the callous treatment of immigrant families in the U.S. has distilled into outrage toward the companies willing to help the federal government carry out its anti-immigrant agenda.
Recent activist-led boycott campaigns have targeted tech giants such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Salesforce for their business dealings with Immigration and Customs Enforcement — the cartoonish archvillain in the modern horror story that is U.S. immigration policy.
And while those big-name corporations have caught flack for their ICE contracts, the vast majority remain unmentioned. Never one to be outdone when it comes to ethically thorny business dealings, Florida boasts its own collection of faceless ICE contractors raking in millions of dollars for their work with the agency.
New Times reviewed federal contract reports to identify Florida-based companies with large ongoing contracts with ICE. Here are five of the top recipients.
1. Aircraft Transport Services
Size of contract(s): $23,425,066 awarded of a potential $29,771,344
Located in Palm City, Aircraft Transport Services (ATS) is an air ambulance company that moonlights as a deportation airline for ICE. Currently, ATS is nearing the end of a four-year, $29 million contract for “long-range international charter flights.” As you might guess, these aren’t vacation flights for overworked ICE agents.
On a call with New Times, ATS director Michael Keister vehemently denied working with ICE, adding that his company’s name is very common. But Keister’s suggestion of a mixup is not supported by the facts. Before the call with Keister, a secretary at ATS confirmed the company’s dealings with ICE to New Times, adding that the nearly $30 million contract was its biggest and only current contract. Federal records include the same Palm City address and contact information listed on the ATS website.
“Procurement data does indicate that ICE awarded a contract for charter flight services to Aircraft Transport Services on Nov. 22, 2016,” an ICE spokesperson told New Times. Moreover, ATS’ Palm City address is “consistent with what ICE has reported for the contractor information,” according to the spokesperson.
Journey Aviation, another Florida-based aviation company, subcontracts for ATS on the ICE deal. Journey Aviation chief pilot Nick Reinardy confirmed ATS’ ICE contract and the nature of its work: “It’s what you read about in the papers… We deport the illegal aliens that ICE picks up.”
Keister did not respond to an additional request for comment.
2. G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc.
Size of contract(s): $17,554,192
G4S Secure Solutions transports detained immigrants between prison facilities in the U.S. The company also manages detention centers of its own in other countries. Its three current contracts are for transportation in cities including Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
In addition to being one of ICE’s biggest Florida-based beneficiaries, the company is also a habitual donor to state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Last year, the Florida Democratic Party swore off donations from private prison firms, only to later accept a $10,000 contribution from G4S, as New Times first reported. After the story broke, party leaders agreed to return the money.
G4S has been linked to at least one detainee death in Pinellas County in recent years. The company is based out of Palm Beach Gardens.
According to a G4S spokesperson, the company currently works with Homeland Security to “facilitate transportation to and from immigration detention centers” and also provides guard services for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in addition to providing facility guard services at CBP sites.
3. Harris Corporation
Size of contract(s): $4,832,000
Harris Corporation is a tactical communications giant that recently scored a $51 million delivery order to provide tech to a NATO member. Harris’ $4.8 million ICE contract might seem measly compared to that payday, but it still makes the company one of the federal agency’s largest Florida-based beneficiaries. The contract for “over the air tracking equipment” expires in October.
Earlier this week, Harris completed a historic merger with New York-based L3 Technologies. The new L3Harris Technologies is now the sixth-largest U.S. defense contractor and the eighth-largest company in Florida. Harris’ Melbourne headquarters will remain home base for L3Harris.
Harris Corporation did not respond to a request for comment.
4. Telco Solutions Inc.
Size of contract(s): $1,491,350 awarded of a potential $2,837,827
Telco Solutions is a perfect example of a faceless contractor getting millions from ICE for otherwise mundane services. According to federal contract reports, the company is providing ICE with licenses for business accounting software. Telco, which is based in Naples, has until 2022 to complete its contract.
Telco Solutions did not respond to a request for comment.
5. The GEO Group, Inc.
Size of contract(s): $192,087,177 awarded of a potential $199,811,018
Few industries have seen such a boon thanks to Trump administration activity. In 2018, the Boca Raton-based GEO Group leapfrogged the competition to become ICE’s single largest beneficiary. In 2019, the for-profit prison behemoth and all-around wicked corporate entity blew out every other Florida-based company in total contract money, and it wasn’t even close. GEO has received an estimated $480 million from ICE since Trump took office.
GEO Group’s current contracts with ICE are for facilities in Texas, Georgia, Colorado, California, and Washington, to name a few. But the company has faced a mountain of lawsuits for poor conditions in its facilities and abuse of detainees.
For-profit prisons have become a leading issue among Democratic presidential candidates. Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rourke have all come out with plans eliminating or restricting the use of privately operated prisons. Long-running campaigns to force organizations to divest their assets from private prisons have marked notable victories in past months. This year alone, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America announced they would be steering clear of GEO Group and other for-profit prison firms.