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The Business of Border Security

The Business of Border Security

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Published by: Editor on Jun 25, 2013
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El Diario/La Prensa,News Report, Michelle Garcia, Posted: Jun 21, 2013
 The fate of millions of immigrants is tied to immigration reform. But there are also numerous militarycontractors,
subcontractors, and suppliers whose fortunes could be significantly affected by the bill.
 Contained within the 1,000-page and counting immigration reform bill before the Congress is anestimated $4.5
 billion in funding for "border enforcement," with potentially millions more added, whichlawmakers say is as criticalfor reform.
 The new funding will expand an immigration enforcement apparatus that already receives more
 
federal dollars
than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a report by thenonpartisan MigrationPolicy Institute (MPI).
 Doris Meissner, who co-authored the report, said U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have
 
characterized a border strategy as one of "risk management" and using resources effectively. Illegalcrossingshave reached historic lows in recent years. Yet Congress appears to be taking the approach ofdramaticallyincreasing he budget for enforcement, as well as dictating tactics to the Department of HomelandSecurity."The ultimate question here is whether the return on investment for that continued build-up isnecessary, " saidMeissner, former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. "I think as youcan you see,it's politically necessary," she added, placing emphasis on "politically."The financial payoff of border security will potentially enrich a wide-range of interests
fromdefensecontractors, to private prison companies, to the towns and cities that house them. Indirectbeneficiaries includeorganized crime groups such as Los Zetas who have come to dominate the human traffickingmarket.Like the push for immigration reform, border security measures reflect years of lobbying, agendasetting and
influence building in Washington. "It's not like there are new interests
 — 
what's important ishow much
 
groundwork has been laid," said Lee Drutman, a senior at the Sunlight Foundation, which trackedthe constellation of lobbying interests involved in immigration bills over the last five years.
Drones
 In recent years, defense aircraft have begun to cruise across the vast border collecting information
 
on migrants,
smugglers and drug traffickers. The immigration reform bill calls for additional drones and thelikely beneficiaryis the California-based General Atomics which has a $454 million pending federal contract to build and maintainup to 12 drones.
 The influential industry now counts the support of the Congressional Caucus on Unmanned Systemor Drone
Caucus in the Congress with 60 members from both parties. Last year General Atomics spent$2.4 million inlobbying politicians and made $680,682 worth of campaign contributions to members both parties, accordingto the Center for Responsive Politics which tracks campaign and lobbying money.
 
 
“As defense contracts diminish, border security becomes a bigger part of their profit sector,” says
Tom Barry
who tracks drone contracts for the Center for International Policy, a left-leaning think tank.
 Drones also provide an x-
ray of the border, says Meissner, director of the MPI’s immigration
program, collecting
information which allows agencies to gauge the number of illegal border crossings againstapprehensions and better estimate the level of migration flow.
 
Detention Money
 The immigration reform bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee would expand prosecutionsof illegal
 border crossers in the Tucson, Arizona sector from 70 to 210 per day, building on years of increased crimina-
 
lizing of immigration offenses. Immigration cases now represent the bulk of federal criminal cases,40 percent,according to a report by the U.S. Department of Justice.If Congress expands criminal prosecutions further, private prison companies stand to win millions ofdollarsworth federal contracts to house and monitor immigrants. The Correctional Corporation of America,the GeoGroup, along with Management and Training Corporation, spent an estimated $45 million in lobbyingandcampaign donations over the past decade, according to an Associated Press investigation publishedlate lastyear.The immigrant detainee population has surged from roughly 85,000 in the mid 1990s to 400,000annually, with
me 33,000 detainees held on any given day in privately run facilities scattered across the country.
 The Florida-based Geo Group paid $40,000 to Navigators Global, a Washington firm, to lobby on"immigration
related matters," according to a recent lobbying disclosure filing and first reported in The Nation.The Geo
Group is based in Florida, home of Senator Marco Rubio, who has emerged as a central figure in theimmigration
reform battle. And the lobbying firm was founded by Cesar Conda, Rubio's chief of staff.
 "No one here has been guided by anything of that sort," said Alex Burgos, a spokesperson for Rubio,referring to
lobbying interests. "We're guided by a set of principles."
 Pablo Paez, vice president of corporate relations, said in a written statement that Geo Groupdiscussions with
lawmakers "have never been aimed at influencing immigration policy or influencing the outcomeof immigrationreform." Paez wrote that the lobbying efforts related "exclusively" to detention issues. "Our 

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