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The detention drain: how immigration detention hurts New Mexico’s economy

Immigration detention Government accountability Government expenditure Immigration Economic indicators New Mexico

The criminalization of immigration through policies like President Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy have swelled the numbers of people in U.S. detention centers. Recent reports have exposed the inhumane conditions in these centers, including those that have caused dozens of deaths.

Many people have rightly contested the very existence of these detention centers, given these abysmal conditions, and have called for investigation and a total reassessment of mass detention of asylum seekers and immigrants. When faced with this criticism, one of the main defenses of government officials in states and counties where the centers are located is that they make economic sense. The centers, it is argued, bring revenue and jobs to areas that need them.

This report punctures this myth by looking into a large immigrant detention center in rural New Mexico run by CoreCivic, one of the largest private corporations running prisons and detention centers.

Main findings:

  • Cibola County is losing a considerable amount of money on the detention facility, as it pays high operational costs that aren’t covered by the federal contract.
  • CoreCivic has made huge profits off its detention centers and private prisons and it pays its CEO over $4 million, while paying almost no federal income taxes.
  • There are much more productive ways to create good jobs and healthy communities in New Mexico with the $150 million that has gone to CoreCivic.


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