Miami – Activists on Tuesday expressed their concern over the privatization of some immigrant detention centers in the United States, saying that there is the risk that standards in the treatment and care of the detained persons will decline.
The president of the Miami chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, John De Leon, told Efe that the danger is that when those centers are managed by the private sector, detention could become motivated by financial considerations.
"There's an enormous danger when jails and detention centers are privatized, because the reason for taking away the rights of people and having them detained is not (then) based on questions of justice, but rather financial and profit-making ones. It's a very big danger in a democracy," said the attorney.
A study by the Detention Watch Network released in May said that private companies manage approximately 49 percent of the detention centers for undocumented immigrants in the country.
The ACLU detected, De Leon said, an increase in the number of detainees due to the privatization of the centers, in particular those housing undocumented immigrants.
"There's a need to fill those centers, and to keep them financially maintained the number of detainees has risen drastically," he said, although he did not provide any figures.
"In general, it's a very great danger when the government puts the freedom of its citizens in the hands of private entities," he said.
Kathy Bird, a member of the Florida Immigration Coalition, said that operating immigration centers or prisons brings with it nutrition and medical attention expenses, as well as the training of personnel.
"How can those companies make a profit? The only way is by lowering their standards in those areas. The more they are lowered, the greater the profits," she said.
The activist said that there had been cases of people with cancer who had not received medical treatment for more than a year in "many of the detention centers operated by companies like CCA and GEO Group."
Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group Inc. are two of the largest companies on the international level who manage detention centers for immigrants and prisons.
Nashville-based CCA denied the allegations to Efe and said that the company's "17,000 dedicated and professional employees" provide secure installations that protect the dignity of the detainees and prisoners while saving money for taxpayers.
Daniel Carrillo of Enlace, a coalition of worker centers, unions and community organizations in Mexico and the United States, emphasized that in recent years lawsuits have been filed against GEO and CCA for alleged mistreatment of detainees.
At an immigrant detention center in California, he told Efe, several years ago a person apparently "had cancer and was not provided with the required medical attention. He died."