P3 and Immigration Law in Arizona – “Both” Sides Win?
NPR has just published a very nice piece of investigative journalism about the role of the private prisons industry in influencing immigration law in Arizona. The new law, passed last spring, extends the power (and responsibilities) of police officers to scrutinize immigrants, essentially allowing policemen to stop anybody they deem suspicious and ask them for immigration documents. People found without immigration papers can then be detained and illegal immigrants can spend up to six months in jail.
This is where the prison industry comes in. Further criminalizing immigrants provides a whole new potential prisoner population to tap into, a nice profit opportunity. NPR uncovered evidence that the state senator who proposed the bill first presented his project at a conference where legislators and private firms – notably from the prisons industry – were present. The idea was debated and turned into a bill at the conference, before being brought back to Arizona. The rest of the story involves typical linkages through campaign financing, etc.
Here is my favourite quote from the NPR article. The journalist asks an individual who works for the group which sponsored the conference (and is further currently for congressional office in Maryland) whether such a process is common:
Asked if the private companies usually get to write model bills for the legislators, Hough said, “Yeah, that’s the way it’s set up. It’s a public-private partnership. We believe both sides, businesses and lawmakers should be at the same table, together.”
Both sides… one wonders where this leaves the rest of the population, which is somewhat reminescent of a lot of the debates about public-private partnerships in Canada. The Arizona law is being fought in the streets and the courts – on the basis that immigration is a federal matter – which in a way is an answer: The process leaves most people in the streets, at least until the next election.