Trump and Preparation

Expansion of Private Detention Under Trump

            As we discussed previously, once entering office Trump implemented executive orders attacking Hispanic immigration. In addition to expanding arrest qualifications and exponentially increasing immigration officers’ authority, Trump embraced increasing private detention centers for housing detained immigrants. In the past three years, the Trump administration has supported the addition of 24 immigrant detention centers and over 17,000 beds to existing ICE operated facilities. Since 2016, private detention centers have generated a yearly revenue of billions of dollars, as well as donated significant contributions to the Trump campaign and Republicans in states housing detention facilities. In 2016, the private prison industry donated upwards of $1.7 million to Republican candidates, and $1.9 million in 2018. 

           Despite this dependence on the private prison industry to detain immigrants, two-thirds of those detained by ICE have no criminal record. In reality, nearly 30% of those detained were in the process of requesting asylum. By law, ICE is mandated to approach immigrant detention in a civil nature and is obligated not to treat detainees as incarcerated individuals. However, a review completed by USA Today Network discovered ICE operates detention centers mirroring prisons, forcing detainees to wear “inmate” jumpsuits and held in prison cells. 

           Furthermore, the erection of these new detention centers are concentrated in Southern states, such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Prior to the election of Trump, ICE maintained the capacity to detain approximately 2,000 individuals in Louisiana and Mississippi. During his time in office, ICE’s capabilities have exploded to detain over 10,000 individuals in this area. Transferring detained immigrants to these Southern states is an intentional notion to harm immigrants’ cases because judges in these areas are lacking and very conservative, and immigration lawyers are sparse. For instance, since there is a shortage of judges in Louisiana and no immigration courts in Mississippi, most immigrant cases are conducted via video hearings. These tent courthouses have become notorious for their extensive wait times, little oversight, and restricting immigrants’ access to attorneys. 

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Mass Trial of Immigrant Detainees    

        Though private detention centers are not operated by the federal government, they are funded by it. Under Trump, ICE has redirected funds from other federal agencies to support its extensive detention network. In June of 2018, ICE absorbed 9.8 million of FEMA financing at the start of hurricane season, and $169 million from various DHS agencies, such as the Coast Guard and Domestic Nuclear Detection Office. On average, the federal government allocates tax-payers’ money to pay $775 a day to detain a child in a private detention center. Despite this exponential figure, detention centers have widely been exposed as inhumane and cruel, refusing detained immigrants proper meals, medication, and rest. Since facilities are privately run, the federal government does not have authority to conduct unscheduled evaluations of the facilities, as well as review cases of mistreatment, illness, or death. Private detention centers outsource this work to other private companies. 

           A Human Rights Watch report concluded insufficient medical care was the contributing factor in 50% of deaths that occurred in private detention centers. Furthermore, a report by the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights compared private and public facilities, finding private detention centers failed to meet federal standards of health, provide adequate food and nutrition, supply access to legal services, and protect LGBTQ individuals from abuse. This reflects the allocation of resources to these centers is not for the benefit of detained individuals, but for the gross profit of private prison operators. Additionally, private detention contracts have a fixed rate, meaning the federal government must pay for a specified number of beds, even if they are not filled. This supplies further incentives for private detention operators to win federal contracts, large profits and low accountability. 

            In 2018, the Department of Homeland Security submitted a notice requesting an additional 15,000 beds to hold detained immigrants. If achieved, this would have resulted in the increase of the federal budget by billions of dollars, with the entire 2019 fiscal year budget equating to the DHS request. This dedication to detaining non criminal immigrants for merely existing exposes the long term plan of the Trump administration to criminalize Hispanic immigrants and amplify a white American culture. Furthermore, the administration’s Attorney General sought to overturn the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the detention of children as well as the duration of detention. Though unsuccessful, the administration argued there should not be a time limit on the detention of children by ICE. This action further exemplifies the Trump Administration’s efforts to permanently imprison Hispanic immigrants. 

Children undergoing Detention Processing by CBP officials

           In 2019 alone, the United States detained approximately 70,000 children in custody, the largest quantity in American history. The detained children's ages include infants, toddlers,  young children, and teenagers. According to an investigation conducted by PBS and The Associated Press, up to 42% of the children detained spent more time in detention centers than with their families in prior years. In a study published by the United Nations this year, it was concluded the United States detains the largest quantity of children in the world. In Canada, 155 children were held in immigration detention centers, and in the United Kingdom 42 children. The Trump Administration’s expansion of private detention centers for migrants illuminates a greater plan to eliminate Hispanic immigration to the United States, and remove Hispanic presence within America. 

          This past year, California responded to the growing quantity of private detention centers housing immigrant detainees by passing legislation banning private prisons from operating in the state. The federal government reacted to this maneuver by suing the state on claims they can out law local residents from being held in private centers, but cannot dictate the terms of imprisonment by the federal government. This forceful reaction demonstrates the Trump Administration’s dedication to expanding and continuing the detention of immigrants. If California loses the case in court, it could set a precedent allowing the federal government to rectify detention centers in any state despite their detention laws, by codifying into law the federal government’s authority to detain immigrants in private prisons.

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ICE Facility run by private company GEO in Adelanto, California

          For the year 2021, the Trump Administration has put forth a budget which would elevate the number of detention beds to 60,000, allowing the administration to detain an average of 55,0000 adults and 5,000 family units daily. This proposal reflects the Administration’s unwavering need to criminalize Hispanic immigrants, as well as to ensure white American voters the administration is working to remove Hispanic influence in the United States. The expansion of private facilities to detain immigrants, the majority of which have only committed the crime of the crossing into the United States, exposes the Trump Administration’s desire to strip humanity away from Hispanic immigrants and imprison non-white people. 

Fox News' Coverage of Private Detention Centers

          As we have discussed previously, Fox News has operated as a media wing of exclusive praise for the Trump Administration. These efforts to not subside in discussions surrounding the inhumane detention of Hispanic immigrants, in fact, Fox News has vigorously defended these practices. Below, we will review statements by Fox News anchors and affiliates regarding the separation of families, the detention of immigrants, and the treatment of immigrants. As you review the statements, consider the impacts this station has over the viewpoints of white Americans, and how its verbiage permeates into American daily life. 

1. On Fox & Friends, Fox regular Mark Krikorian asserted that detention centers “are not dog kennels” because “they’ve got cable from Central America.” He also claimed that while it’s not “the greatest thing in the world,” it “might actually be better than Honduras, where they’re coming from.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/31/18]

2. Commenting on the Trump administration's policy of separating children from their families, Fox host Jesse Watters said that “some would say it’s a more humane policy” than keeping them together. [Fox News, The Five, 5/29/18]

3. Ingraham claimed detention centers holding migrant children separated from their parents are “essentially summer camps” or “basically boarding schools.” She chided critics of these detention centers as “seiz[ing] on the separated children and turn[ing] the entire image into a political weapon.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 6/18/18]

4. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy chided those who “have referred to them as ‘cages,’” telling viewers to “keep in mind, this is a great big warehouse facility where they built walls out of chain link fences.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/18/18

5. Fox & Friends co-host Ainsley Earhardt claimed that “you can’t even really blame an administration” for the policy of separating parents from children at the border. In April 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero-tolerance policy,” which caused the separation of children from their parents at the border. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 6/19/18; Politico, 5/7/18]

6. On The Ingraham Angle, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich claimed that people who compare child detention centers to concentration camps “despise and hate the United States.” He also said, “It’s really disturbing to have people on the left who hate their own country so much that they would use this kind of language.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 6/19/18]

7. On her show, Fox host Laura Ingraham said that while “it’s sad when your family gets separated” at the border, “there’s only so much of the love you can spread around.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 7/2/18]

8. On Fox & Friends, Homan attacked Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) for pointing out ICE abuses. Homan insisted that Ocasio-Cortez “needs to do her homework,” claiming that “every time she opens her mouth, she’s wrong.” He asserted that “she ought to be saying thank you” to ICE agents instead of criticizing them. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/9/19]

9. On Fox & Friends, Morgan again argued about the description of the facilities as cages, insisting that they are just “chain link fence” for “safety and security.” He said criticisms of children being held in cages are “totally a false narrative” and “a talking point for the Democrats.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/7/19]

10. On Outnumbered, Fox contributor Katie Pavlich agreed that some of CBP’s detention policies are “not humane,” but she claimed that “this is the only choice” the agency has. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 3/29/19]

11. Former Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan said the agency “should be applauded” for its policy of housing children in cages. He insisted that “those cages” are “designed that way” for “the safety and security of the people that are in there.” [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 4/4/19]

12. While discussing the death of a migrant child from Guatemala, frequent Fox guest Brandon Judd said that “we’re going to continue to see these issues” if Congress doesn’t “give us the funding we need,” referring to Border Patrol. [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 5/22/19]

13. On Fox & Friends, guest co-host Pete Hegseth accused migrants of “child exploitation.” He elaborated that “the blame goes on the parents for putting these kids at risk” and praised “what our agents are doing” as “incredibly humane and incredibly difficult.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/31/19]

14. On Fox Business, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) said that he hopes “people of Hispanic descent will understand that the Democrats are only using them; they’re not actually trying to help them.” He also accused Democrats of using “race bait” and “identity politics” to stop Trump’s agenda and asserted that Democrats have “yet to move a comprehensive immigration bill” since taking the House. [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 6/23/19

15. On Mornings with Maria, former ICE acting Director Tom Homan said Democrats are “more interested in protecting illegal aliens … than securing this border.” Homan later asserted that “children are dying” while “Democrats [are] calling these concentration camps, but they haven’t offered up one fix for the crisis.” Homan also attacked sanctuary cities, calling them “another enticement” for migrants. [Fox Business, Mornings with Maria, 6/24/19]

Last modified: Monday, 2 Mar 2020, 23:09