The Multibillion-Dollar Budget of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement: Pure Profit
for the Private Sector
The immigration issue has become one of the greatest headaches for many countries in the
world. For example, Kenya has some of the largest refugee camps in the world as a result of the
political instability in South Sudan and Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Turkey is also facing a problem
of immigration as it receives many immigrants from some of the countries in wore-torn Asia
such as Syria. In North America, the case is no different with the United States receiving many
immigrants from countries such as Mexico among others. The United States is approximated to
have about 11 million immigrants, a figure that is more than the population of Sweden (Foer) .
Some of the most painful stories in the United States have been from the immigrants, with the
current administration attitude towards them the situation is getting worse. However, even with
the disheartening stories, there is a booming business that has arisen from the immigrants’
problems, with some business entities making a lot of profits annually.
The history of private prisons in the United States can be traced back to the 1960s when there
was a massive influx of immigrants that were coming into the country as a result of the Cuban
revolution (Takoushian) . At that time, it was seen as a cost-effective solution as many
immigrants were detained as a result of being in the country illegally. However, the capitalist has
taken the idea and turned it into a multi-billion business. The Trump administration has seen
increased its budget in the U.S immigration department, to ensure that illegal immigrants are
taken back to their respective countries irrespective of the worse situations in such places.
The private sector has been the greatest beneficiaries of the increase in budget for the
department. GEO Group and CoreCivic are some of the private business entities that have
benefited from the immigration issue. In 2014, CoreCivic was awarded a $1 billion four-year
contract for a facility in Dilley, Texas (Urbi) . Although private detention companies are required,
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to uphold certain standards. However, with their
focus being on the making profits instead of helping the country deal with the problem of
immigration, numerous cases have been reported when standards that are maintained by the
prisons to be lower than was is stipulated.
To understand how big the profits are for the private prison companies, some of the companies
such as Geo Group and CoreCivic lobby or promote the specific legislations that shape the
immigration policy within the country. It has reported that detention industry, in particular,
private prison entities, donated money to 30 of the 36 co-sponsors of the infamous S.B 1070, a
broad and harsh crackdown on the documented immigrants (Foer) . There has to be more than
what meets the eye when private prisons companies start lobbying to ensure certain legislations
relating to immigration are either shot down or passed into law.
These examples alone do not show the full extent to which the private sector is involved in the
United States immigration enforcement. Numerous business entities are engaged in helping
ensure that all immigration-related issues are achieved. Different companies from different
sectors of the economy such as health care foodservice, money transfers, and bail and bond are
all working in tandem with private prison companies, and ultimately, by the government of the
United States to run the multibillion-dollar business of immigration enforcement.
Tech industry is one of the sectors that work closely with the private prison and the ICE to tap
into big money spent on immigration. In March 2018, media giant Thomson Reuters won a
contract that was worth $6.8 million with the ICE (Urbi) . The contract was for the provision of
support for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations unit regarding its mission to “locate,
arrest and remove criminal aliens that pose a threat to public safety.” Microsoft, one of the
biggest tech companies, have also not been left behind in the multibillion-dollar budget of ICE.
The company was awarded a $19.4 million contract that is still running.
The transport sector has also tapped into the booming business, as it realized that ICE had
created a system of incredible scale, an industrialized process for removing people from the
United States. In particular, because commercial airlines could not take passengers who refused
to board planes, ICE decided to create an internal mechanism that would ensure that the
deportees are transported back to their countries without much complication. Thus, the agency
created its airline known as ICE Air. The ICE Air has access to 10 planes, most of them being
Boeing 737s, each having a carrying capacity of 135 people (Foer) . They also have access to
airports in five hub cities across the United States such as Arizona, Texas, Miami, and Mesa
ICE Air, through its operations, works contracts-chartered flight services. Some of the
companies that have benefited from the chartering of plans are CSI Aviation and Zephyr
Aviation. Although several United States Airlines such as American and United Airlines have
distanced themselves with the immigration transportation business, commercial aircraft have
realized a substantially realize of funds from the ICE budget. Apart from Airlines, there is also
road transportation with GEO transport being the private sector partner of ICE. The company has
over 300 vehicles, which are contracted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, U.S Marshals, and its
state-level contracts (Foer) .
The worst part of the story of the business of deporting people is that even with the already
calculated profits from the contracts that are being awarded, the companies that are engaged in
business with ICE and its related agencies still compromise on the most basic services that they
offer to the immigrants. In one of its trips to Somali, a flight carrying 92 Somalians made a pit
stop in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. During the stopover, the plain had to wait for over
24hours for a new flight crew, with passengers being left under unhygienic conditions (Foer) . An
account by some of the deportees that were on the flight indicated that they were not allowed to
visit the washrooms forcing them to use water bottles. They were also not provided with food.
ICE refuted these claims, but the question that many were left with is whether it is worth
appropriating so much money to a department, to ensure that proper standards will be adhered to
during handling of illegal immigrants, but nothing better is achieved.
One of the features of the United States election is that candidates are funded by different
donors, some of whom expect that if the presidential candidate they support wins an election,
then they will have to ensure that their respective business interest is well taken care of. A
majority of the companies that are engaged in business with ICE are those that are affiliated to
President Donald Trump Donors. This is a group of people who care less about humanity as they
are part of the deep state that is aimed towards profiting from the misfortunes of others.
Apart from private companies enjoying the multibillion-dollar budget of ICE, the department has
also increased its employees. To show the bureaucratic tendencies of ICE, the department has
doubled its employees since it was created with about 2,700 deportation officers. The doubling
has been due to the ballooning ambitions of the department, as the department feel that President
Donald Trump has been willing and able to work with them to achieve their goals and objectives.
Capitalism has seen individuals and business entities trying to benefit from every opportunity
that comes there way irrespective of the ethical considerations, in what can be termed as a “man
eat man society.” Individuals and private companies have been able to tap the multibillion-dollar
budget of ICE to make huge profits every financial year. They even lobby for bills to either fail
or pass regarding how beneficial or disadvantageous such bills are to their private interests —
private prison companies being the biggest beneficiaries of the profits that are realized.
Foer, Franklin. How Trump Radicalized ICE: A long-running inferiority complex, vast statutory
power, a chilling new directive from the top—inside America’s unfolding immigration
tragedy. 27 September 2018. 25 July 2019.
Takoushian, Alexis. The Role of Immigration in the Rise of U.S. Private Prisons. 8 January 2019.
25 July 2019. <https://www.panoramas.pitt.edu/news-and-politics/role-immigration-rise-
Urbi, Jaden. Here’s who’s making money from immigration enforcement. 29 June 2018. 25 July