A top government official overseeing detentions and deportations is heading to a private prison company at the end of the month, according to a source with firsthand knowledge.
Daniel Ragsdale, the official in question, is second-in-command at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency tasked with arresting, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants. He was temporarily the head of the agency until President Donald Trump named his replacement in January, before becoming the deputy director. .Ragsdale is expected to start his new job at GEO Group, the Boca Raton-based private prison company, in a few weeks. It isn’t clear what his new title there will be.
“While you may be losing me as a colleague, please know that I will continue to be a strong advocate for you and your mission,” Ragsdale wrote in an email to his ICE colleagues on April 28, obtained by The Daily Beast.
That email said his last day at the agency will be May 27, and didn’t say what his new job would be. A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast that Ragsdale is leaving the agency for the private sector, but didn’t comment on his new job.
“Dan is a person of great honor and a strong ethical code,” said a source close to Ragsdale. “I have no doubt he will bring great deal of integrity to the process to make sure organizations like GEO are complying with the rules and regulations regarding folks who are in detention because of their immigration status.”
Ragsdale and GEO did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
GEO Group has lucrative contracts with ICE to run immigrant detention centers. On a shareholder conference call last week, the company’s top executives said ICE’s move to increase detention and deportation in response to President Donald Trump’s executive orders will be good for their business.
Ragsdale isn’t the first high-profile ICE official the prison company has hired. One GEO executive on the shareholder call, David Venturella, is also a former ICE official, as is Mary Loiselle, another GEO Group executive.
This kind of turnover, from federal agencies to private companies that contract with them, is common throughout the federal government. It also draws significant criticism from good-governance advocates, who say this “revolving door” encourages government officials to develop cozy relationships with corporate leaders so they can get lucrative gigs there after finishing their time in government.
As Trump pushes for dramatically expanded immigration enforcement, with more detentions and deportations, ICE is increasingly reliant on private prison companies––including GEO––to house the people it detains. GEO’s stock price jumped dramatically after Election Day, likely due to investors’ belief that the Trump administration would be good for the private prison industry.
Private prisons have long drawn criticism from civil rights advocates. And GEO currently faces a class action lawsuit from former detainees at one of its immigrant detention centers in Colorado. They allege the company forced them to work for little or no wages, violating federal laws that bar human trafficking.