5. Immigration and Detention

Immigration 1

US-Canada Border Crossing (Alberta)

The fifth piece looks at three of ALEC’s task forces; Civil Justice, Public Safety and Elections, and the Justice Performance Project and how together, these task forces have compelled ALEC supporters in the Oregon legislature to introduce several immigration related model bills.  And although most of them failed, staunch conservatives continue to push them through reintroduction.  The model, which supports commercial prisons like Wackenhut aka the Geo Group, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Management Training Group.  (MTG) depends on tedious, ALEC inspired laws that trap the undocumented and funnel them to commercial prisons which collect hundreds of dollars per head per day.






  1. 5. Immigration, Detention, and Deportation 17:49


NB – By now, you know what ALEC is and what it stands for. And you know it has committees called task forces that bring together corporate representatives and legislators in such a way that the former offer the latter model bills to introduce in state legislatures. These bills tend to greatly favor corporate interests. And you also know that in many cases, those businesses make campaign contributions to legislators who, in return, try to make those model bills law. What you may not know is that two of those task forces, the Civil Justice and Homeland Security Task Force and the Public Safety and Elections Task Force have been introducing anti-immigration model bills since 2008. And all of them found their way into the line of sight of some of Oregon’s more conservative legislators. Becky Straus Legislative Director with American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon spoke on anti-immigrant legislation introduced in the past few sessions:


Becky Straus

“In terms of anti-immigrant legislation in the past few years in Oregon, I can point most recently to the 2013 session which was the most recent full session. They met for about a month since then, but was really for less substantive budget issues in that shorter session. And the fact is right now with the make up of the legislature, having a majority of legislators not interested in making laws that make life more difficult for immigrants in Oregon, we see very little of the anti-immigrant legislation certainly move forward. There have been a couple concepts that have been introduced that have gone nowhere and typically those types of bills are introduced by a representative named Kim Thatcher. She’s a republican from Keizer, and for a couple sessions in a row now has introduced a bill that would’ve mandated that state agencies use the e-verify database. That’s the federal e-verify system that’s an Internet based computer database run by the Department of Homeland Security. It’s used by some businesses to verify the work eligibility of employees and this bill would be a mandate that state agencies use it. The fact is though that the system is widely understood to be flawed. It’s often inaccurate and it’s really just a thinly veiled mechanism to make life more difficult for the immigrant communities here in Oregon. So that was an example of a bill that was introduced. It didn’t move anywhere and no one really thought it would move anywhere simply because at this point in time, the legislative majority and the leadership in the legislature is more committed to immigrant rights than some of the individual legislators who might introduce a bill like this.”

NB – HB 2803, introduced by Representative Kim Thatcher in 2011, “requires state and county law enforcement to investigate the immigration status of people who are arrested”. It contains elements of ALEC Immigration Law Enforcement Act. 2011’s HB 2805, also sponsored by Representative Thatcher, prohibits state agencies from providing employment, products, services or licenses to persons who are not lawfully present in the United States”. It is largely similar to ALEC “Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act”. 2011’s HB 2973 also spawned from ALEC Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, “Requires employer to verify legal status of employee to be employed in United States through federal E-Verify program prior to deducting expenses related to worker’s employment from Oregon taxable income”. Its chief sponsors were Representative Bob Jenson and Representative Greg Smith. Yet another descendant from ALEC Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, 2011’s HB 3045 ” requires employer to verify legal status of employee to be employed in United States through federal E-Verify program prior to deducting expenses related to worker’s employment from Oregon taxable income”. Its chief sponsor was Representative Mike Schaufler. In 2011, House Bill 2802, sponsored by Representative Thatcher “Prohibits state restrictions on state agencies and law enforcement in enforcing Federal Immigration law.” House Bill 2806, which was also sponsored by Representative Thatcher, limits deductibility of expenses related to employment of workers hired on or after January 1, 2012, to workers whose eligibility for employment in United States has been verified through federal E-Verify employment verification system.” HB 2806 and House Bill 2802 both contain elements of the ALEC Immigration Law Enforcement Act. And finally, 2012’s House Bill 4052 was strongly supported by known ALEC members in the Oregon legislature including Representatives Kim Thatcher, Representatives Eyre Brewer, Sal Esquivel, Tim Freeman, Sherie Sprenger, Jim Thompson, Gene Whisnant and Matt Wingard supported the measure which, among other things, requires state agencies to use the federal E-Verify employment system to verify employment eligibility of job applicants, report the use of system to the Oregon Department of Administrative Services and report annually to the legislature on use of E-Verify system by state agencies. And although HB 4052 failed in 2012, it returned the following year as HB 2358 and was again sponsored by ALEC members Kim Thatcher and Gene Whisnant. We reached out to Representative Thatcher but our request for an interview was turned down by her legislative assistant Dawn Phillips. Dawn said she was uncomfortable with us asking Representative Thatcher about ALEC bills she has introduced.

NB – Kelley Weigel, an Executive Director of Western States Center wrote in her 2014 piece “How the Right Has (Re)turned”, “2014 will be a heavy ballot measure year across the West. Just as the American Legislative Exchange Council asserts a conservative agenda through state policy, state based groups and nationally networked groups such as Oregonians for Immigration Reform to Americans for Prosperity put ballot measures out to test public sentiment on the parameters of our democracy.” She continues. “This year will be no exception to the struggle between those that want to use the ballot to expand rights and access and those who wish to narrow who counts as members of our communities deserving of rights, recognition and resources”.

NB – As we mentioned earlier, the Oregon Legislature looked at a number of immigration related pieces of legislation. Let’s look at one of them in particular, Measure 88, which is on the November ballot. Measure 88 is what’s known as a veto referendum and is the only one of its kind on the 2014 ballot. A veto referendum is a response to a measure that has been passed by the legislature but is being challenged by a special interest group. If they collect enough signatures, they force the challenge onto the ballot for a citizen vote. Measure 88, also known as Senate Bill 833 provides driving cards to the undocumented. It was passed last year by the Oregon legislature but it limits those driving privileges to four years for the undocumented in the state. As in a handful of other states, the driving card cannot be used as proof of identification for air travel, to enter federal facilities, to vote or as proof of citizenship. The referendum is managed by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, as well as Protect Oregon Drivers Licenses, both of whom oppose the measure. The ACLU of Oregon favors it.


Becky Straus

“Groups like the Oregon Association of Nurseries, the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, several business, labor, faith groups, also the ACLU are all in favor of Measure 88 and are asking the Oregonians vote yes on 88 at the ballot this November. What the measure does is it creates a limited purpose a limited duration driver card for qualified applicants who are living in Oregon. Those drivers need to prove that they know the rules of the road, that they can demonstrate safe driving ability, that they’ve lived in Oregon for a year or longer in order to get driving privileges here in Oregon. That’s what the bill does. And representatives Thatcher and Esquivel are opponents of that bill.”

NB – In the endorsement statement published by Protect Oregon Drivers Licenses, Kim Thatcher wrote: “In regards to state issued ID – in the form of driver privilege cards- to illegal aliens, I am talking about adults who have made a conscience decision not to go through the legal process. I am talking about those who made a conscience decision to be here illegally. You have to wonder if someone is willing to disregard immigration laws, what other laws are they willing to disregard. Our state has determined that driving is a privilege. It is not a right. We should be very careful about who we allow the privilege of driving on Oregon roads?”

[musical interlude]

NB – Now lets expand our focus outside of Oregon to better understand the full scope of ALEC immigration agenda. A piece of ALEC inspired legislation that has gotten a lot of attention in the last few years was Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, the so called “Show me your papers” law. Many provisions of the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” were struck down by the US Supreme Court in 2012. And House Bill 2802, which was the Immigration Law Enforcement Act failed in the Oregon legislature. But the idea of providing support and protection to the undocumented here in Oregon has been prominent for awhile.

As near as we could tell, all of the model bills that were introduced between 2011 and 2013 by the Oregon legislature that were inspired by either ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task force or ALEC Civil Justice Homeland Security Task force failed. But that doesn’t mean ALEC influence on the undocumented is unfelt or invisible. Two big corporate names on the Justice Performance Task Force are Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, formerly known as Wackenhut. These two are the leaders in the private prison and detention industry and are registered to do business in Oregon. We couldn’t find direct contributions from these two companies to Oregon Legislators. But we found other members of the Justice Performance and the Civil Justice Task Forces that have contributed thousands of dollars to Oregon legislators between 2008 and 2013. Between 2008 and 2013, Representatives Eyre Brewer, Mike Schauffler, Gene Whisnant, Tim Freeman, and Kim Thatcher received nearly $20,000 in contributions from task force member companies including Pfizer, Georgia Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, the National Rifle Association and the American Insurance Institute.


Brave New Foundation – “Immigrants for Sale”

“The detention of migrants is a multibillion dollar industry, one in which immigrants are traded like products. They are for sale to the highest bidder. Who benefits and who profits? Corrections Corporation of America or CCA, the Geo Group and the Management and Training Corporation combined own over 200 facilities in the nation with over 150,000 bed spaces with a total profit of close to 5-billion dollars per year. Private prisons profit like a hotel, the more occupants that go in, the more money that comes out. Private prisons rely on anti-immigrant laws that guarantee them access to fresh inmates. Here’s how they do it. The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC is an extreme right wing membership organization comprised of state legislators and powerful multinational corporations including the Corrections Corporation of America. ALEC is the most active private prisons lobbyist group, pushing for anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB-1070. Russell Pierce, like CCA, is an ALEC member, one with obscure ties to national white separatist, neo-nazi groups. During an ALEC meeting, CCA and Pierce crafted a model legislation that became almost word for word Arizona’s SB-1070. Whether people are undocumented or not doesn’t matter as long as they fill the detention facilities for days, months or even years.”

NB – Corrections Corporation of America is the largest owner of for-profit prisons and immigration detention facilities in the United States. CCA currently owns and operates more than 65 facilities including 47 company-owned facilities, with a design capacity of more than 90,000 beds in 19 states and the District of Columbia. For nearly two decades, CCA participated in and even led the Criminal Justice task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Since 2004, the nation’s two largest private prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group have spent over $26 million lobbying the federal government. These corporations and their biggest investors engage in political scheming and lobbying at the state and local level. In 2012 The Geo Group had nearly $130 million in contracts with the DHS. Corrections Corporation of America had over $34 million in contracts with the DHS that same year.

NB – According to Jamie Trinkle, “Undocumented immigrants comprised 4.3% of Oregon’s population ; that’s 160,000 people and 5.3% of the state workforce in 2010. The Portland Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Office processes between 12 and 15 immigrants per day, or 3120 to 3900 people each year. Immigrants held by ICE at the Portland Field Office are transferred within 24-hours to Geo Group’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. Since 2004, the privately owned facility has been under contract with ICE to house detainees pending the removal process. Under the current contract, ICE must maintain a minimum population of 1181 detainees at a rate of $100.65 per day. ICE pays Geo group $62.52 per day for each detainee exceeding 1181. At the Northwest Detention Center, as at most private prison facilities, documented abuses are rampant; overcrowding, abusive strip searches, delayed medical care and inadequate food. Geo and CCA profit from the detention of vulnerable immigrant communities by understaffing prisons and cutting costs so that basic food and medical needs are not met.

[musical interlude]

YM – My name is Yana Maximova. I am a KBOO reporter and I am working on this investigative report on the American Legislative Exchange Council. Immigration and detention is a personal issue for me. In 2010, I spent one month in a US Detention facility after being questioned and detained on the spot while hitchhiking in New Mexico. I was placed in removal proceedings and held in the privately run detention facility in El Paso, Texas. Thanks to my partner and husband-to-be, who was helping me from the outside, I had an immigration attorney working on my release. My partner, an American citizen, was able to post a bond on my behalf on the condition that we planned to marry. Most of the people I met in the facility did not have this luxury. They had no way of adjusting their status. No financial support. No family to post bond or to help them obtain an attorney. Many were simply awaiting the impending deportation for months or even years, each day turning a profit for the corporations housing them. It is important for me to be able to speak out and tell stories of people who suffer, companies who profit from it and organizations like ALEC who operate in the shadows. This report was produced with help from KBOO reporters Mike Klepfer, Sam Bouman, Sam Smith and Don Merrill. Special thanks to Becky Straus of the ACLU of Oregon and Nicholas Bailey. You can find other reports by the KBOO investigative team at KBOO.fm . The KBOO News Director is Jenka Sodeberg. I’m Yana Maximova.

Last update on October 23, 2014 reflects most recent changes.

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