The Green Mile

Private Prisons Cheer Trump’s Immigration Crackdown

Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration are going to be pricey to enforce—and private prisons couldn’t be more thrilled.

Photo Illustration by Lyne Lucien/The Daily Beast

Private prison companies saw an immediate and sustained stock bump when President Donald Trump was elected. And investors think things will keep getting better.

An article on Seeking Alpha, the investment research site, speculated that GEO Group’s stock value may increase by 25 percent this year.

“The basic rationale is that a Trump administration will emphasize private industry and law-and-order, both which will serve as significant macro tailwinds for the private prison industry over the next 4 years,” it said.

That emphasis began in earnest Wednesday with a series of executive orders signed by Trump to crackdown on illegal immigration.

Besides announcing that he will triple the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers and order the Department of Homeland Security to start building the wall (even though Mexico has yet to pony up the cash), Trump and his team also committed to locking up more immigrants who illegally cross the border.

These measures are expensive; an analysis from the progressive Center for American Progress——a think tank linked to the Clinton campaign—estimated the whole project could cost more than $117 billion over the next 10 years.

And much of that money will go straight to private prison companies.

“The reality is, DHS is not going to have the ability to detain all these folks,” said David Inserra, a homeland security policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “You have to rely on the private contractors.”

The majority of immigrants in detention (62 percent in 2015, according to Quartz) are in facilities managed by private prison companies—companies that were subjects of a blistering Justice Department report last summer. During Obama’s presidency, the Justice Department announced it would phase out its reliance on private prisons. And Hillary Clinton promised on the campaign trail to do the same. Trump, in contrast, has defended their use (and one of those companies, in turn, contributed generously to a pro-Trump super PAC). His attorney general pick, Sen. Jeff Sessions, also has a favorable approach to the controversial industry.

And private contractors are open for (additional) business. Pablo Paez, a spokesman for GEO Group—the second largest private prison company in the U.S.—told The Daily Beast that his company is optimistic about the future.

“We can’t speculate about future policy initiatives, but we look forward to working with both the new Administration and the new Congress in continuing our longstanding partnership with the federal government providing high quality and cost effective services, while treating those entrusted to our care with the respect and dignity they deserve,” he said.

GEO Group recently hired two former Sessions staffers onto its D.C. lobbying team, as Politico reported.

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A spokesman for CoreCivic, the nation’s largest private prison company, shared a similar sentiment.

“We are in continual contact with our federal agency partners and they are aware of our capacity and capabilities,” said spokesman Jonathan Burns. “As in the past, we remain committed to providing flexible, innovative solutions to the challenges they face.”

Critics of immigrant detention, meanwhile, are gearing up for legal fights. The ACLU released a statement ripping into the president’s plan.

“Locking up asylum seekers who pose no danger or flight risk is unconstitutional and benefits nobody except private prison corporations and politicians looking to score rhetorical points,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the group’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, in a statement. “We will see the Trump administration in court if they go down that road.”

In the meantime, these companies have new friends in high places.

“It’s all good news for the private prison industry,” said Cristina Parker of Grassroots Leadership, a group that opposes immigrant detention and deportation. “Everything has been good news for them since election night.”

In other words, the industry isn’t tired of winning yet.