The GEO Group, a for-profit private prison operator that works closely with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, is hardly glum about its disappointing second-quarter earnings report Monday. Profits declined two percent, company officials said on an earnings call, blaming the decreased revenue on a drop in border crossings, but they are expect a rebound in revenue thanks to a “gradual increase in interior enforcement.”
Officials on the call said they expect an increase after they pointed out that the population of immigrants in its detention center facilities dropped in part because President Donald Trump’s harsh policies have discouraged border crossers from entering the country. But GEO Group officials weren’t concerned by the revenue drop because they’re looking forward to detaining more immigrants living within the interior of the United States.
In spite of a two-percentage point drop during the second quarter, GEO Group chairman and CEO George Zoley said Monday that he was “reasonably pleased with our financial results and the continued growth of our company.” Brian Evans, the Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, followed by saying the company could see a revenue increase because the ICE agency “intends to utilize contract bed capacity for interior enforcement.”
“While in the past, ICE processing centers have been primarily utilized for individuals detained for multiple illegally border crossings, increasingly, ICE intends to utilize contract bed capacity for interior enforcement,” Evans said on the call. “Accordingly, ICE has requested additional funding to expand its detention bed capacity. And the House Appropriations bill provides an additional $700 million to support an average daily population of 44,000 during fiscal year 2018. This reflects an increase of 5,000 beds over the 39,000 beds that were funded in the fiscal year 2017.”
Immigration enforcement focused on detaining and deporting recent border crossers under the Obama administration. Interior immigration enforcement had generally relied on workplace raids, employment verification, and state and local collaboration with the ICE agency. But with new Trump administration directives, interior enforcement has become indiscriminate, with agents going after immigrants with longstanding ties to their community. According to the Pew Research Center, most of the undocumented adult population in the United States has lived in the United States for a decade or more. Many of those people have settled down and are now moms and dads.
Evans pointed out that the GEO Group could increase its revenue because of factors like the House Appropriations subcommittee bill, which seeks to authorize funding to staff upwards of 1,600 ICE officers, agents, and support staff to expand ICE’s interior enforcement activities.
“We also expect the average length of stay to increase from the present, approximately 45 days, due to more lengthy adjudication proceedings,” Evans added. “We believe that longer average stays will likely increase the average occupation as well. In conclusion, we believe we are in a transition period with this new administration, having reduced illegal border crossings and now focusing on interior enforcement. The new interior enforcement initiative may very well provide additional opportunities due to the need for establishing additional processing centers throughout the country rather than only clustered along the southern border. We are responding to ICE regarding their need to their additional capacity in the North and the Northeastern part of the United States.”
As one of the two largest private prison operators contracted with the ICE agency, the GEO Group has faced intense ire from activists concerned over appalling conditions that immigrant detainees face. Of the nine immigrants who died while detained this year, five died at a GEO Group-operated facility. By June 2017, three immigrant detainees died in three months at the Adelanto Detention Facility in California, a GEO Group-operated facility. One man died by suicide, another of internal bleeding, and a third never revived after collapsing at the facility. Activists have accused the Adelanto facility of medical negligence and bad detention conditions.
Despite the continuing negligence, the Trump administration awarded the GEO Group with a $110 million contract to build an immigration detention center that houses 1,000 people. GEO Group Holdings, a subsidiary of the GEO Group donated $100,000 to Rebuilding America Now, a pro-Trump super PAC back in August 2016.