How Big Money Shackles Immigration Policy

In December 2016, Free Speech For People released the report “Private Prisons and Political Contributions: How Big Money Shackles Immigration Policy.” The bilingual report was authored by Democracy Honors Fellow Jasmine Gomez and Demos’ Pamela Cataldo, and explored the effects of money in politics on immigration and the prison industry.

The report found that private prison guard companies and unions spent millions in lobbying money to elect both Democrats and Republicans, including funds donated to the Trump Campaign. The report has proven prescient given current events. Significantly, it predicted that – if Trump remained true to his promises – huge numbers of undocumented people would be held in immigration detention centers awaiting court deportation proceedings, which would have the effect of driving up private prison stock value.

The report further discovered that California Governor Jerry Brown, one of the only Democrats to receive donations from private prison companies and prison guard unions, used his power to veto the “Dignity Not Detention Act,” an act to prevent city and counties from contracting with private for-profit immigration detention facilities.

These findings were echoed in a New York Times article released yesterday, July 4, 2018, in which The Times reported that “President Trump’s inauguration fund collected $500,000 from two private prison companies that house detained migrant families.”

These reports highlight the deleterious effects of big money in politics. The Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and related cases mean that wealthy people, corporations, and unions can spend unlimited amounts of money in politics. Studies show that Congress listens to those with the most money to spend on elections, rendering middle and low-income voters with little say in the political process. Free Speech For People’s report demonstrates how this concentrated power in the hands of a few affects immigration and prison policy and why we must fight to end the big money dominance of our politics.

To learn more, read the full report, in both Spanish and English, here.

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