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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Anti-immigration hysteria tied to the private prison industry

The now-infamous “”show me your papers”” law which requires Arizona law enforcement to check the legal status of anyone “”reasonably suspected”” of being undocumented has brought illegal immigration to the forefront of American politics.

S.B. 1070’s incessant media coverage and the grossly overstated urgency for immigration reform would lead many to believe Mexican drug cartels were on the verge of overthrowing the government and illegal aliens were running rampant through the streets.

But data collected by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Department of Homeland Security indicate that apprehensions of illegal crossings have dropped by nearly 70 percent since 2000.

Still, despite the overwhelming evidence indicating otherwise, prominent Arizona politicians have continued to insist that illegal immigrants are pouring into the country in droves, responsible for headless bodies in the desert and “”terror babies”” intent on destroying our way of life.

Why is it that as illegal immigration becomes less of a national security threat, anti-immigration sentiment has ratcheted up?

It is because those who have politically profited off the issue of illegal immigration by stoking fear are the beneficiaries of more than just electoral capital.

Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed S.B. 1070 into law, and the legislation’s principal architect, Russell Pearce, both have extensive financial ties to the private prison industry powerhouse Corrections Corporation of America, a company which stands to profit in the sum of millions if Arizona’s “”papers please”” legislation is enacted.

CCA, one of the leading providers of detention and correction services in the country, holds the contract to imprison all federal detainees in the state of Arizona. S.B. 1070 would lead to more arrests on federal immigration charges, causing money to pour into the gargantuan coffers of the private prison industry and directly into the bank accounts of those who are financially tied to it.

Republican state senator Pearce submitted a draft version of S.B. 1070 to the American Legislative Exchange Council for revision months before the bill was introduced to the floor of the Arizona Senate. Pearce is one of 35 Arizona legislators who belong to this organization.

Two years prior, ALEC was the recipient of millions of dollars in contributions from CCA and Geo Group, two of the largest private prison companies in the state.

Pearce’s financial records also indicate that the political action committees funded by both CCA and Geo Group have donated the maximum amount allowable to his campaign.

Gov. Jan Brewer’s deputy chief of staff, Paul Senseman, is a former CCA lobbyist.  His wife Kathryn Senseman currently lobbies the state legislature on behalf of the company.

Still more damning is the fact that the governor’s leading policy advisor, J. Charles “”Chuck”” Coughlin, is the president of Highground Consulting,  the lobbying firm which represents  CCA’s interests in Arizona.

CCA also contributed a total of $10,000 dollars to the Prop 100 campaign earlier this year, an initiative, along with S.B. 1070, which set the stage for Brewer’s reelection bid.

Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO was among the first to report on this glaring conflict of interest. In retaliation, the Brewer campaign pulled ll advertisements from the network.

Investigation into this controversy obviously does nothing to further the governor’s political ambitions, but how does pulling your campaign advertising off a CBS affiliate in the largest city in the state help your chances of being reelected?

The financial ties between S.B. 1070’s loudest proponents and the largest private prison companies in the state are no coincidence. S.B. 1070 and anti-immigrant hysteria are nothing more than mechanisms for funneling money into the private prison industry and into the pockets of the very same politicians who craft immigration legislation.

— Nyles Kendall is a political science junior. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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