Sunday, August 15, 2010

Maybe Immigration, Maybe Not

On July 28 U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued a temporary injunction preventing most of the controversial portions of SB 1070, Arizona's famous/infamous immigration law, from taking effect until the case is heard by a higher court.

One of the provisions of the act which cannot now be enforced is section 3, the notorious- or entirely reasonable, depending on which side one lines up on- requirement that immigrants (or is it all citizens?) carry with them documentation of legal residence. Kris Kobach, the law professor and former immigration advisor under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, helped craft the law. According to CNS News

It has been a federal crime for aliens to fail to keep certain registration documents on their person,” Kobach said, adding that the Arizona law simply makes it illegal in Arizona to violate that federal law.

Kobach is hardly an objective observer, and other intriguing components of the law may one day go into effect. That would include the portion

requiring officers to make a reasonable attempt to determine the immigration status of a person stopped, detained or arrested if there is a reasonable suspicion that the person is unlawfully present in the U.S. and requiring verification of the immigration status of any person arrested prior to releasing that person.

Amid the lawsuit heard by Judge Bolton, demonstrations, and charges of racism, the law has been popular with a vast majority of the American people. Almost everyone has an opinion, and generally a strong one, as to whether the statute is a fair and effective means of dealing with illegal immigration. But this law (whether ever fully enacted) is not motivated primarily by immigration.

In the interests of full disclosure: this is merely my suspicion, not the conclusion reached by Rachel Maddow. Still, it is a reasonable conclusion from the great segment (video below) Maddow presented Thursday evening. It is summarized on her blog:

You heard the one about the prison break in Arizona, with a dangerous Bonnie and Clyde for our time still on the run? Three men got out with help from one of their girlfriends in Kingman. The private prison they broke free of was never designed to hold such serious offenders, and it didn't hold them long enough.

Last year, the Arizona legislature tried to privatize the entire prison system, which would be a great boon to private prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America. A business like that needs prisoners, of course, to make money. Then Arizona legislature delivered SB 1070, the anti-immigration bill that stands to increase the number of illegal immigrants who are arrested and put behind bars.

Now an investigation by KPHO-TV finds that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's deputy chief of staff was a lobbyist for Corrections Corporation of America, and his wife still is. Another Brewer adviser runs a firm that represents the prison company. And Gov. Brewer didn't answer KPHO's questions about the connections or why she hadn't revealed them.

Morgan Loew, the KPHO reporter who broke the story, tells us it's a simple equation:

"When someone's picked up on the side of the road or for a crime, they're taken to the jail. At that point, their immigration status is determined. If they're an illegal immigrant, they're reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Then they're taken to one of these private prisons, Corrections Corporation of America.

"So, you'd have to do the math. But if you increased the number of people who are picked up, illegal immigrants, increase the number that are sent over to ICE, you're likely going to increase the number that companies like Corrections Corporation of America are going to be housing."

(H/T Blog for Arizona, who told us about the story this week at a watch party in Tucson.)

We've been had- those both opposed to, and supportive, of SB 1070. While most of the country has been convinced either that Arizona is a bastion of intolerance or that finally a governmental entity has cracked the whip on illegal immigration, the architects of the legislation have been silently grinning. This act is primarily about privatization and greed- and incidentally about immigration.

And why not? The second oldest profession in the world is about profit and greed- so why not Arizona's immigration law?


Reverend Manny of the Human Tribe said...

CCA Is making like 1.6 bil annually off the tax payer... it pains me that these connections to brewer and the AZ legislature are so obvious and so rarely mentioned in the SB 1070 debate...

great blog, found you digging around for more research on CCA connections in AZ...

one love, one struggle,
--reverend manny

Mike said...

CCA has had strong influence on the drafting and passage of SB1070 through two main channels. The first is Jan Brewer's direct connections to High Ground Consulting, which lobbies on behalf of CCA (their director is Brewer's campaign manager) and to CCA lobbyists. But what is less obvious is how they have worked through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where they sit on their Public Safety and Elections taskforce, which edited a draft of the bill before it was introduced. Corruption is running rampant in the Arizona legislature, and it stands to benefit CCA significantly at the expense of Arizona taxpayers.

For way more on how CCA has used its political clout to influence Arizona's SB1070, check out

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