As the Obama administration intensifies efforts to stop the influx of Central American families entering the United States without legal documents, detaining growing numbers of children, it’s generating a potentially lucrative opportunity for one industry: private prison operators.
Karnes County, Texas, awarded a contract earlier this month to GEO Group, Inc. (NYSE:GEO) — the second-largest private prison company in the country, after the Corrections Corporation of America (NYSE:CXW) — to operate a detention facility for migrant families. The Karnes County Civil Detention Center currently holds adult male migrant detainees, but is being cleared to make way for around 600 migrant women and children. GEO Group and Karnes County officials didn’t respond to requests for comment on the value of the contract, but their 2010 agreement (pdf) for the male detainees amounted to about $14 million per year.
The Karnes County detention center would represent the first major intersection between one of the private prison behemoths and the recent wave of Central American child migrants. Only two family detention centers, one in Pennsylvania and one in New Mexico, are currently in operation, and are government-run. But the Obama administration is looking to make way for more family detention centers in the coming months, which may allow private prison companies — which already operate more than half of the immigrant detention beds in the country — to increase their footprint and their profits. Migrant Family Detentions On The Rise, And Private Companies Stand To Profit