Standing Up to “ICE”

by Martha K. Huggins, Ph.D……..

Abba: “Money, Money, Money–M-O-N-E-Y”[i]

“Money, money, money
Must be funny

In the rich man’s world”

A private prison corporation, The GEO Group,[ii]  located in Boca Raton, Florida, was recently awarded a contract[iii] by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to develop and operate a $110 million dollar 1,000-bed Detention Facility.  The private prison facility, to be located in Conroe, Texas, is expected to generate “approximately $44 million” for the Geo Group “in annualized revenues and returns on investment.” [iv]

The ICE contract was awarded in 2017, even though GEO Group facilities “have a troubling history of issues, including sexual abuse of youths, prisoner suicide attempts, and prisoners escaping.  There have… been multiple cases of employees of GEO being charged with smuggling contraband into the facilities [for detainees].”[v]  The Obama Administration stated in 2016 that the Justice Department would no longer contract with any private for-profit prisons “following widespread reports of corruption and mistreatment of prisoners by the global private prison company GEO Group.” But in February 2017, “that decision was reversed by Donald Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the GEO Group [made a] six-figure donation to a pro-Trump super PAC.” Between 2009 and 2016—not counting the 2017 Trump Administration grant for the planned Texas facility, ICE has awarded the GEO Group at least $865 million dollars, by my calculations, toward the group’s for-profit prisons that house ICE detainees.  These ICE grants were awarded under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

Abba: “Money, Money, Money—M-O-N-E-Y”

If I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work at all,

I’d fool around and have a ball…

“Over the last 10 years more than two-hundred employees of the Department of Homeland Security have taken nearly $15 million in bribes while being paid to protect the nation’s borders and enforce immigration laws.”  Tracking homeland security funding is…difficult because homeland security funds flow through literally dozens of federal agencies, not just via the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) itself.  For example, of the $71.6 billion requested for “homeland security” in FY2012, only $37 billion ended up being funded through the Department of Homeland Security itself. Another amount of the $71.6 billion dollars allocated to DHS was funded to relevant programs through the Department of Defense – $18.1 billion in FY2012 –including also from Health and Human Services ($4.6 billion) and the Department of Justice ($4.1 billion).”[vi]  This complicated funding stream makes tracking difficult and facilitates corruption, especially when yet another portion of DHS 2012 allocation is earmarked for “discretionary spending,” presumably making up the remainder of the 2012 DHS $71.6 billion budget allocation.  Scamming The Man!

Gillian Wench: “One More Dollar”[vii]

“A long time ago I left my home
For a job in the fruit trees…
So I sent my wages to my home
Said we’d soon be together
For the next good crop would pay my way

One more dollar and I’m on my way.”

“Nearly seven in 10 Americans (69%) ha[ve] less than $1,000 in their savings account.  73% of the lowest income adults (those earning $24,999 or less annually) have [even] less than $1,000 in their savings account”. [viii]

Working Hard and Getting Nowhere! The average 2015 income of an “undocumented family” is a little more than $30,000, well below the…US  median  household income of around $54,000, according to the Census Bureau.[ix] “Mexico currently receives nearly $24.4 billion in remittances each year from immigrants in the U.S.” who send money to their families in Mexico. (Across the globe, immigrants sent $583 billion back to their home countries in 2014, with $440 billion of that going to developing countries.”)[x]

Immigrants who are illegally in the U.S. collectively contribute nearly $12 billion each year to US state and local tax coffers.[xi]  Yet these individuals who lack legal permission to be in the U.S. consistently, receive lower wages than their immigrant counterparts who are in the country legally….[xii]

My Lord, What a Work Ethic:  Hard Work for Low Pay and Then Sending a Lots Home!

Abba: “Money, Money, Money”–M-O-N-E-Y

Two private prison corporations — Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group (GEO)— dominate the US immigrant detention industry. The GEO Group (NYSE: GEO) and CCA (NYSE:  CXW) operate 72 percent of the United States for-profit privately contracted ICE immigrant detention beds. GEO alone “experienced a…dramatic profit increase [between 2007 and 2014,] from $41,845,000…to $143,840,000 [, respectively]–a 244 percent increase.

The Cost to Taxpayers?

“Immigrant detention has become a huge business, costing taxpayers upwards of $2 billion annually.”  All this to incarcerate enough people to satisfy the US federally-mandated ‘bed quota’–34,000 detainees a night—a figure that in 2014 gobbled up “approximately 40 percent of ICE’s $5.3 billion budget.   Put another way, “the cost of the ‘bed quota’ was equal in 2014 to the entire annual budget of the Drug Enforcement Administration.”  In most cases the annual allocations by ICE of taxpayer money goes toward constructing and remodeling (expanding) and operating a privately run prison whose profits are the grist of corporate wealth for the few. [xiii]

Roy Orbison:  “Working for the Man”

I slave all day without much pay
And I’m just biding my time.

“In 2015, Americans pa[id] $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of  US national income.” In that same year, what is dubbed ‘Tax Freedom Day,’  was  on April 24–114 days into that year.  Tax Freedom Day—almost four months—is how long Americans as a whole have to work in order to pay the nation’s tax burden. [xiv]

Stock Tip:  Maybe you can get rich off the US immigrant detention facilities that hold ‘immigrant aliens’ under the federal ‘bed quota’ funding stipulation? But Watch Out:  Geo and CCA stocks have been falling. Yet, The GEO [Group] is still one of the top beneficiaries of the “bed quota.” Its profits increased from $41,845,000 in 2007 to $143,840,000 in 2014–a 244 percent increase.[xv]

Petra:  “All About Who You Know”[xvi]

You are tied-in and networked
You’ve got people to see
You have friends in high places
You’ve got places to be…

The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO and Corrections Corporation of America – and their associates,  have funneled more than $10 million dollars to [political] candidates since 1989 and spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. These private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar—at least until now. They rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue during a period when the  for-profit federal prison population more than doubled (2000-2010).  According to 2015 reporting, “Private companies house nearly half of the nation’s immigrant detainees, compared to only about 25 percent a decade ago….In total, there are now [2015] about 130 private prisons in the country with about 157,000 beds.[xvii]

Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio “has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million dollar prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company.”

Mary Wilson, The Supremes: “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even”[xviii]

Don’t get mad, get even
Don’t get mad, get even
Say the times, they be a changin’
Oh, the blind need the blind
You know your head is empty
Though there’s somethin’ on your mind…

We get bent out of shape at one another, angry, and hot and bothered about illegal immigration—‘Which US President is the worst in that respect?’ ‘Why is Trump under fire?’  ‘Obama arrested even more immigrants than Trump has so far’ ‘Illegals are dangerous, we must protect the Homeland from them.’ We fight and argue about illegal immigrants in moral and security terms, while for many US politicians “illegal aliens” are just plain business, that’s all, nothing more.

I have come to see ICE officers as part of a wealth-creating assembly line. And like most assembly line workers they are held to a quota.  They are actors within an economic system of beneficiaries, who need their work.  This is how Politicians, private for-profit prison owners, and their stockholders see ICE.  I no longer think that ICE is rooting out illegals in Key West because these arrestees in any way really threaten the US Homeland.  Hell no!  ICE officers know full well that they are fulfilling an arrest quota established by US Congress in 2009, in the “midst of a multi-year decline in the undocumented immigrant population. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), then Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, inserted enabling language into the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) budget:  “funding made available under this heading shall maintain a level of not less than 33,400 detention beds.”  This directive established what would become a controversial policy interpreted by ICE–a mandate to contract for and fill 33,400 (increased in 2013 to 34,000)[3] detention beds on a daily basis. The “immigrant detention quota” or “bed mandate,” is unprecedented; no other law enforcement agency operates under such a [forma] detention quota mandated by Congress.”[xix]

Donna Summer: “She works hard for the money”[xx]:

So hard for it, honey.
She works hard for the money.
So you better treat her right

It’s a sacrifice working day to day.
For little money just tips for pay.

Key West, Florida:  Noted author and former Key West resident, Barbara Ehrenreich, “gets a job as a waitress in a diner-style restaurant, and finds a trailer to rent nearby. The income she receives from waiting tables is not enough to support her and to pay the next installment of rent, and Ehrenreich takes on a second job working as a hotel maid. The two jobs become too physically demanding for her to continue, and she vacates the maid position after one day. The waitress position becomes increasingly difficult as well, and Ehrenreich leaves the job before the month has been completed.”  (Book: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America)[xxi]

C.R.E.A.M.: “Cash, Rules, Everything, Around, Me”[xxii]

Get the money
Dollar, dollar bill y’all

“The Department of Homeland Security [DHS], “whose requested $2.2 billion fiscal year 2017 budget,…[is to fund] 31,000 detention beds per day,” is already being assessed as insufficient given the goals set by Trump’s administration.  DHS “would need four to five times as many beds to enforce… [President Trump’s] call for mandatory detention [of all arrestees] — an increase that could raise yearly [DHS  and ICE] costs [from 2.2 Billion]  $10 billion.” [xxiii]

ABBA: “Money, Money, Money”
Must be funny
In the rich man’s world

Deporting illegals is lucrative business and it makes and enhances political and bureaucratic careers:  Even as “deportations [of undocumented workers]…declined by 43% [between 2014-2016,] the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) budget for the detention and removal of aliens…[grew] by 25%.” [xxiv]

Bureaucratic “creep”–getting bigger and into new areas to secure its own longevity and funding—applies also to its bureaucrats.

Total homeland security spending since September 11, 2001 has been $635.9 billion.[xxv] U.S. The total 2015 Department of Homeland Security budget allocation was $60.9 billion dollars, with nine percent of this going toward Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  This is said to include compensation for roughly 8,000 ICE agents, whose average salary is $56,000[xxvi]

The Police: “Every Breath You Take”

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you…

If there was ever a time to show support for your County Sheriffs and City Police it is now–here’s why: ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), backed by the legal muscle of President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration, is pitting one Law Enforcement organization—ICE–against other ones—county sheriffs and local police.  Right now, some county Sheriff departments are pushing back against ICE.

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations aim to “identify, arrest, and remove aliens who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of our immigration laws and our border control efforts.”[xxvii]   Accomplishing this often requires the assistance of  county sheriffs—for arrests and for Sheriff-run detention facilities, like the one on Stock Island.  ICE simply cannot carry out its enforcement and removal operations alone.

Poet John Donne:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself…

Local law enforcement must sometimes break local laws in order to assist ICE in arrests and by detaining arrestees.  County Sheriffs, including in six Florida counties, are resisting President Trump’s Executive Order (8 USC § 1373) that makes legal his ‘Enforcement and Removal Operations’ against those defined as illegal “aliens.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual. Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, no person or agency may prohibit, or in any way restrict, a Federal, State, or local government entity from doing any of the following with respect to information regarding the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual” [xxviii]

The consequence for a local law enforcement organization’s ‘declining to assist’ ICE in arrests or by not making county detention facilities available for ICE arrestees—the latter at the expense of the local county and its taxpayers—is to end up on a DHS/ICE, “Weekly Declined Detainer Outcome Report.”  “Section 9(a) of [President Trump’s] Executive Order recognizes the authority of the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security, in their discretion and consistent with law, to ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 USC § 1373 [will not be] eligible to receive federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.” Florida’s Pinellas County Sheriff, Bob Gualtieri, has stated that some law-enforcement organizations have been fined by the federal government for NOT detaining illegal immigrants based on ICE warrants.  (see Archived reports of law enforcement entities refusing to assist ICE)[xxix]

Who is refusing so far?  Several Florida law-enforcement organizations were reportedly singled out recently [by Homeland Security] for not complying with ICE’s requests. The top 10 non-cooperating counties [to date]…are Clark County, Nevada; Nassau County, New York; Cook County, Illinois; Montgomery County, Iowa; Snohomish County, Washington; Franklin County, New York; Washington County, Oregon; Alachua County, Florida; Franklin County, Iowa; and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. St. Lucie County in Florida has also been listed on a “Declined Detainer Outcome Report” for not assisting ICE.  Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell will only honor an ICE detainer regulations, if she is presented with a [signed] judicial order or criminal warrant [for arrest]. (Sheriff Darnell has stated that some warrants come to her unsigned by the appropriate officials). This, Sheriff Darnell states, makes her organization, the county, and its taxpayers, vulnerable to a lawsuit.  (There have been lawsuits against some of the US Counties whose sheriffs have worked on arrests with ICE.  The settlements “have been over six figures for doing what ICE asked them to do,” according to  [Pinellas County] Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.  In his words, our sheriffs “can’t honor the detainer [order of ICE]” when the city, county, or State law doesn’t allow it.”  Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell added, ‘How do we know if the ICE arrest action is legal’?  Our organization has no access to the website information on a potential arrestee, only ICE has such information and we are simply expected to follow an ICE officer’s orders.’ [xxx]

My Own Song is Simple: I am with you brothers and sisters of the Florida Sheriffs’ Association and beyond.

I support the law enforcement officers who are resisting ICE orders that require their breaking local, state, or federal laws or that require their enforcing an arrest or detention order without sufficient evidence.  As a taxpayer, I support law enforcement organizations remaining within their annual budgets—something that could be violated by being stretched to carry out ICE mandates.  And as a supporter of civil rights, I am deeply concerned about turning the Stock Island Detention or any other such facility into a holding pen for more alleged law violators than it was built to legally and humanely hold, according to detainee population size and officer numbers.  Such violations can end in civil rights judgments for prison over-crowding and enhance officer fatigue along the way.

Enforcing a quickly drawn up Presidential Executive Order that is more about doing private prison business and enhancing corporate profits, than focusing on immigrant entry into the United States, cannot come before law enforcement by the book. Remain strong Key West local and Monroe County law enforcement. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt learned on the eve of WWII, his Federal Bureau of Investigation could not succeed at its domestic counter-espionage intelligence mission without the assistance of local police and their intelligence squads. (Huggins, 1998)[xxxi]  You hold the power and the skill that ICE needs to do its job and you have practice following local, county, and state laws.  Stick to that, hold firm.



[i] Songwriters, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.

[ii] The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO) is a Florida-based company specializing in corrections, detention and mental health treatment. It maintains facilities in North America, Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. In 2015 the GEO Group’s federal contracts with the United States government for operating prisons generated about 45% of its revenues.

[iii] I cannot locate the amount of the contract that will subsidize building an ICE detention facility in Texas, it seems not to yet be posted.




[vii] Written by David Todd Rawlings, Gillian Howard Welch:


[ix] Ibid

[x] Mexico currently receives nearly $24.4 billion in remittances each year from immigrants in the U.S., accounting for about 2 percent of the Mexican GDP, according to the World Bank. Across the globe, immigrants sent $583 billion back to their home countries in 2014, with $440 billion of that going to developing countries.








[xviii] Songwriter Mary Wilson












[xxxi]  Martha K. Huggins. 1998. Political Policing:  The United States and Latin America.  Duke University Press.

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