Rubio Dodges Question of Prison Profiteering

Kevin Rutledge on August 18, 2015
I asked Sen. Marco Rubio an immigrant lobbying question about the top 2 for-profit prisons, CCA and Geo Group, spending $15 million since 2006 lobbying for policies they directly profit from to build more prisons and immigrant detention centers. Rubio stated "ultimately you have to uphold the law, so you have to have somewhere to house people" and how Congress doesn't award these contracts to private contractors.

On Monday night, August 17, Marlu Abarca spoke with Sen. Marco Rubio in Spanish about for-profit prisons owning immigrant detention centers.  She then handed him this Grassroots Leadership report entitled PAYOFF: How Congress Ensures Private Prison Profit with an Immigrant Detention Quota.

Rubio said to her, “Look there’s an immigration law and it has to be followed. But look, I wouldn’t want anyone to be incarcerated, but immigration law has to be enforced. I’m in favor of a reform so the system gets fixed, but we have to enforce the law.”

The following afternoon during a meet and greet, I asked Rubio a follow-up question because I felt he didn’t address the issue of who is lobbying and who profits from these immigration policies: the for-profit prison industry. 

Here is part of our interaction:

Kevin: "Senator, I understand your view of needing to uphold the law in regards to immigrant detention. However, the top two for-profit prisons CCA & Geo Group are shaping the law by spending $15 million on lobbyists since 2006 on policies they’d directly profit from to build more prisons and immigrant detention centers."

Rubio: "Yeah I mean ultimately you have to uphold the law, so you have to have somewhere to house people."

Kevin: "But,"

Rubio: "… If they want to use private contractors, obviously it’s a competitive process and we don’t award that in Congress (points to self, then starts walking away)."

Kevin: "But my question is, what would you do to get those who profit from immigrant detention out of the policy making process?"

Rubio: "You’re talking about privatization. The states should do that, not the federal government."

Rubio continued by stating how the federal government can’t build enough prisons or detention centers, which is why private ones are needed. His staff then directed him towards the stage and the crowd immediately began clapping.

We have discussed the issues of for-profit prisons lobbying on immigration policies to build more immigrant detention centers with most of the presidential candidates and will continue speaking with the candidates and our communities about these issues.

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Kevin Rutledge

Kevin Rutledge AFSC Governing Under the Influence Presidential Campaign Project

Kevin Rutledge is the Grassroots Education Coordinator with AFSC’s Presidential Campaign Project in Iowa.  Kevin has deep family roots in Quaker activism for peace and social justice.  A graduate from Iowa State University in Sociology and Criminal Justice, his previous work includes: United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) organizer, Public Citizen online organizer to overturn Citizens United, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, and a youth residential treatment facility.  Kevin hopes to one day return to Brazil and live by the beach.

“What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill .