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Follow the immigration crackdown cashflow

Jennie Young, Community Voices Columnist • Mar 31, 2019 at 7:15 AM

How to recognize when double-talk and hypocrisy become a strategy? Watching so many Republicans cower and dissemble while conservatism crumbles under so-called leadership of Donald Trump is unnerving, to say the least.

Rep. Phil Roe’s response to the Johnson City Press editorial board’s challenge to his “inconsistent approach” to presidential executive orders is a case in point (Guest Commentary, March 16). Roe, in his role as congressman, can often seem to me a tragi-comic figure, externally shaped, with hard boiled public language seldom his own.

Honest conservatives, like Lamar Alexander, can frankly recognize Trump’s recent executive order as a direct assault on the Constitution. Congress alone, by original design, controls the spending of federal monies. Roe sidesteps and never addresses that. Instead he pivots to off-point criticism of Obama to paint false equivalency. Executive orders, per the nature of our political system, are usually controversial, but few have threatened a pillar of our Constitution. Only blind loyalty to Trump would prompt Roe to so risk his credibility with resort to the usual boilerplate.

The House and Senate’s bipartisan rebuke of Trump’s action is also a rebuke of Roe. He would do well to rethink such positioning because Americans by wide majority, including increasing numbers of Republicans, recognize the “emergency” doesn’t justify unprecedented attack on basic governmental structure, and reject Trump’s high-handed executive action. By the way, I hope all noticed the assassin from Australia cited Trump’s “invasion” rhetoric as a source of inspiration, the third terrorist to do so..

There is another element to this situation which, truth were known, would show Trump is no true believer nor does he want this standoff to end soon, even in his favor. He thrives on the fight and the attention it engenders, though sure, vainglorious as he is, he’d like to have, as a bonus, a monument to his hour upon the stage. A documentary, available on YouTube, called Border Hustle: Private prisons, smugglers & cartels cash in on immigrants” might even convince some die-hard Trumpsters, including Roe, that we’re being conned. It’s by Jay Root, the celebrated investigative reporter at the Texas Tribune, a nonprofit media organization headquartered in Austin.

Two corporations, GEO and CoreCivic, contributed one-half million dollars to Trump’s Inaugural Committee, and executives of the companies were prominent at his inauguration. GEO’s stock rose by 25 percent after Trump was elected and CoreCivic’s by 12 percent. Both are companies with slick websites that tout a “public service” image while they run private prisons. Both anticipated they could cash in on Trump’s promised crackdown on illegal immigrants. They were right on that. Private prisons were failing financially before Trump but now steadily flourish the more undocumented persons are arrested and imprisoned.

Root reports broadly on the shadowy, multimillion-dollar global enterprise that smuggles human beings for profit and zeros in on the journey of a father and young daughter caught up in the border hustle. The trafficking of humans is reported to be more profitable than drugs for cartels and crime syndicates. Unfortunately, the hustle doesn’t end at the border. That’s where the American slice begins. Private companies make a lot of money running detention centers that get paid for the numbers of undocumented immigrants they house. There are 200 such companies in the country now, and they’re not much oriented to public safety or public service. They’re about billions-a-year profits.

There were 3,000 immigrants in detention centers awaiting hearings when Obama left office and under Trump there are 44,000. We’ve seen videos of individuals from ICE roundups boarded on buses heading south, but that may have been mainly for the cameras.

Under Obama and previous administrations, the Family Case Management system was in effect to see that individuals and families showed up for hearings, which  was at least 90 percent effective at a daily cost per person of around $4. The cost under Trump’s immigration-detention-centers system is from $164 to $375 per person per day. At minimum, that’s about $2.5 billion a year. Besides irrefutable government waste, suppose fraud also enters the picture here?

Some detention centers boost income by charging outrageous phone rates. Some reduce staff costs by forcing inmates to do cafeteria and maintenance jobs at a rate of $1 a day which, as it’s became known, has led to lawsuits charging involuntary servitude and extortion.

For certain, these profiteers do not weigh in wanting illegal immigration to slow or stop, and it should be public record how much of Trump’s circle of support is invested in their enterprises. It’s a safe bet they’re aware of the “opportunity.” How much does Roe know?

It’s deceitful to conflate Democrats’ refusal to fund Trump’s vanity project with “a refusal to discuss immigration policy.” It was House Republicans, including Roe, who refused to consider the bipartisan immigration-reform legislation passed by the Senate in 2013 — to the dismay of Democrats, and as a loss to us all. And it’s hypocritical to blame Democrats in 2019 when Republican-shaped immigration reform, with additional physical barriers, could have easily been politically accomplished in 2017 or 2018. No emergency then, you see.

Jennie Young of Elizabethton is a retired language arts teacher.

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