24 | JUL | 2019
The migrant caravan, U.S. government shutdown, and for-profit prisons
U.S. President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he arrives for a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border at McAllen-Miller International Airport in McAllen, Texas, U.S. - Photo: Leah Millis/REUTERS

The migrant caravan, U.S. government shutdown, and for-profit prisons

Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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If the United States President needed more pretexts to maintain his demand for USD $5.7 billion in wall funding to Congress, the new migrant caravan advancing from Honduras will strengthen his case for tough policies in the Mexican border

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If the United States President Donald Trump needed more pretexts to maintain his demand for USD $5.7 billion in wall funding to Congress, the new migrant caravan advancing from Honduras will strengthen his case for tough policies in the Mexican border.


New migrant caravan crosses Mexican border

More than 2,000 Central American migrants entered southern Mexico on Thursday to get to the U.S.
New migrant caravan crosses Mexican borderNew migrant caravan crosses Mexican border


As the U.S. is in its fourth week of the partial government shutdown—the longest in history,—Trump has been insisting in his project of a border wall with an avalanche of lies and inaccurate data, which are taking a heavy toll in his popularity.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Monday found that 63% of voters agree with the proposal of the new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives to reopen parts of the federal administration that do not involve border security, with 30% opposed.

The poll found 63% also oppose using the shutdown to force wall funding, with 32% supporting, while 56% blame Trump and Republicans over the stalemate.

For its part, the President’s approval rating in Rasmussen’s Daily Tracking Poll fell to its lowest level in nearly a year, with 54.3% that disapprove of him and 40.6% that approve.

However, the same day Trump redoubled his strategy, stressing there was “no substitutefor a physical barrier along the southwestern border and accused Democrats of playing politics in refusing to negotiate on an issue that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called costly, ineffective and “an immorality between countries.”

Indeed, the real estate baron said last week that “there is another major caravan forming in Honduras, and so far we’re trying to break it up, and so far it’s bigger than anything we’ve ever seen, and a drone isn’t going to stop it, and a sensor isn’t going to stop it, but you know what’s going to stop it in its tracks? A nice, powerful wall.”

In his obsession, Trump has got to the point of declaring that drug smugglers in the border “have unbelievable vehicles. They make a lot of money. They have the best vehicles you can buy. They have stronger, bigger and faster vehicles than our police have and than ICE has, and the Border Patrol have.”

A simple fact check by the National Public Radio (NPR), nevertheless, stated that most illegal drugs imported from Mexico are smuggled through legal ports of entry, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Only a small fraction comes through parts of the border that would be covered by a wall.

In the same vein, illegal border crossings in the 2017-2018 fiscal year were actually lower than in either 2016 or 2014, and much lower than at their peak around 2000.

The number of unauthorized border crossers is also dwarfed by the number of people who overstay their visas.

Threat to the economy

Leaving aside the popularity levels, the government shutdown—affecting 800,000 workers and federal contractors—represents a threat to the U.S. economy.

Experts have warned that for every week of a shutdown 0.05 to 0.1 percentage points are taken off of that quarter’s growth, meaning the current situation has chopped off as much as 0.1 to 0.2 points from the first quarter.

Given that research, JPMorgan economists also lowered projections for first-quarter GDP growth to 2% from 2.25%.

Depending on materials, the real cost of the wall could be anywhere between USD $21 billion and USD $70 billion.

Nearly 700 miles of wall and fencing have already been built along the border since 2006, during the George W. Bush administration.

The few sectors who would benefit are the private and public building companies interested in the project, such as Caddell Construction, Fisher Sand & Gravel/DBA Fisher Industries, Cerrudo Services, Sundt, Fluor, and KBR.

It is no wonder that some of these firms are donors to the Trump and Republican campaigns, just as the private prisons industry, which gave over USD $1.6 million to candidates in the November midterm elections, reported the American Immigration Council.

In 2016, the Justice Department ended its work with for-profit prisons, citing their dark histories of abuse and troubling inmate safety records.

However, Trump reversed the order; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last year paid more than USD $800 million in taxpayer money to 19 private detention centers, housing around 18,000 migrants and asylum seekers, or about 41% of the 44,000 total persons being held by ICE.

It is worth to mention that the “South Texas Family Residential Center” in Dilley, Texas, is the largest immigrant detention center in the U.S. with a capacity of 2,400 and is operated by CoreCivic, previously called Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Dilley and the 2,400-bed “Karnes County Residential Center”—run by GEO Group, another contributor to the state governor Greg Abbott—are set to become some of Texas biggest child-care providers, following a 2018 state appeals court decision.

Under the ruling, said local media, the centers, which have been accused of enabling sexual abuse and allowing children to die in their care, will receive the same type of licenses granted to the state’s daycares, potentially enabling them to detain children indefinitely as Trump has threatened.

Editing by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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