More than 70 percent of immigrants held in U.S. detention centers are in facilities run by private, for-profit companies. Here in California there are 10 detention centers – four of which are privately-run.
The largest is just northeast of L.A., in Adelanto, and holds about 1,900 adult detainees. It's run by a corporation called Geo Group, one of the largest in the country. After Donald Trump was named president-elect, the Geo Group's shares jumped 21 percent. Another big private prison company, CoreCivic Co., which used to be known as Corrections Corporation of America, had shares rise 43 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.
And that was the day after the election.
Investors are seeing the writing on the wall, said Charis Kubrin, professor at the University of California, Irvine's Department of Criminology, Law and Society. If Trump follows through with his pledges on immigration – such as his goal to detain and deport some 2-3 million people after taking office – companies see plenty of profit to be made.
"There's no way the existing structures would be able to handle that volume [of detainees]," said Kubrin. The logical next step would be to build more detention centers or find other ways to monitor immigrants facing deportation.
But that could pose challenges for a system that has already been criticized for providing inadequate health care and legal access to detainees held at some of the sites. A KPCC investigation in October found lapses of care at the Adelanto facility during a period where at least three detainees died.
"The existing problems could be very strongly exacerbated," said Kubrin.
Department of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson directed a review of the privatized system of immigrant detention to look at some of these issues. Back in August, he called on a Department subcommittee to assess the current detention policy at privately-run centers and determine whether they should be eliminated. The deadline for that review to be completed and submitted to his office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is today.