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Commentary :: Human Rights
The Prisons That House You
14 Nov 2012
Following the Republican losses resulting from the 2012 election, many people have been speculating as to the what's, why's and who's. Of course, just two years ago the questions were, “oh gee, what happened, how could this have occurred. Never saw the Tea Party coming.” Two years before that, all wanted to know how the Republicans lost so badly and coincidently enough … if Republicans could ever recover. Oh the drama!!!
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Among the many questions this year, one that was asked in 2008, has to do with the Latino vote. Whether or not the loss of the Latino vote really impacted their loss by itself is a matter of debate. Experts and pundits on both sides and neutral analysts have different takes, and individual politicians put more or less emphasis on the matter. Steve Malanga of City Journal writes, "But one-third of adult Hispanics are not U.S. citizens and consequently can't vote. Even Latinos who are citizens don't vote as reliably as whites or blacks do, and as a result, their population growth rate doesn't translate into commensurate voting power. According to U.S. Census data for the 2010 midterm elections (the most recent national data available), adult Hispanics numbered 32.5 million in the U.S. population, but only 10.9 million were registered to vote and only 6.6 million actually voted (up from 5.6 million in the 2006 midterms). By contrast, of the 155.5 million adult white residents in the United States in 2010, 104 million were registered to vote and 74.3 million did vote. In other words, nearly half of the country's adult whites participated in the 2010 elections; only 20 percent of adult Latinos did." (

On the other hand Ryan Lizza points out, "When historians look back on Mitt Romney's bid for the Presidency, one trend will be clear: no Republican candidate ever ran a similar campaign again. For four decades, from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan through the two Bush Presidencies, the Republican Party won the White House by amassing large margins among white voters. Nixon summoned the silent majority. Reagan cemented this bloc of voters, many of whom were former Democrats. Both Bushes won the Presidency by relying on broad support from Reagan Democrats. In that time, Republicans transformed the South from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican, and they held the White House for twenty-eight out of forty years. Last Tuesday, Romney won three-fifths of the white vote, matching or exceeding what several winning Presidential candidates, including Reagan in 1980 and Bush in 1988, achieved, but it wasn't enough. The white share of the electorate, which was eighty-seven per cent in 1992, has steadily declined by about three points in every Presidential election since then. At the present rate, by 2016, whites will make up less than seventy per cent of voters. Romney's loss to Barack Obama brought an end not just to his eight-year quest for the Presidency but to the Republican Party's assumptions about the American electorate." (

One thing is certain, however, the Latino population in the United States is growing all the time. The numbers have slowed recently due to the recession, but that will change as the economy improves. Reformation of the system has to happen sooner or later, as at this point it's a matter of demand. Employers want the migrant labor force, and the workers are there when the work is available. Reforming the current system became an issue for Latinos when conservatives pushing for stronger reform began thinking short term and aligned themselves with people wrapping the issue of stronger reformation in issues of race. Suddenly the kind of talk that used to be limited to the savvier among KKK, Neo-Nazi and other white power organization spokesmen, trying to stay relevant as their movements fizzled, began coming out of the mouths of certain bombastic conservative radio personalities. These influential radio personalities then started to be parroted by groups seeking stronger border enforcement, and eventually conservative politicians also advocating such a position.

It was at that point many Latinos that felt comfortable with the idea that people should come across the border using the proper channels, began to question what the anti-illegal immigration movement was really all about. Before they knew it, Republicans spouting off at the mouth about Latinos found themselves losing a once loyal voting base in droves, and really who could blame those making the exodus? The effect is also driven by a broader immigrant and minority presence in general, that hear the same kinds of messages from conservatives, then hear Democrats welcoming them. Hey, who would you go to? What did they really think would happen? Who likes racism? Sooner or later, it will turn people off.

Now, underneath their feet the sands they thought would help them get traction are shifting beyond their control. And as usual, the racist rhetoric is all the end product of what is being put in and where it comes from. What fuels the anti immigration movement among conservatives is cash. The same way president Obama campaigned in 2008 saying, among other things, that he would use part of the money from a second stimulus for a WPA style temporary jobs program to give people work and money in their pockets to remind us this was not all about giving to the wealthy. When the second stimulus came any WPA style program was nowhere to be found. Why? It was for the same reason he completely reversed on his no more no bid contracts to Halliburton promise. Cash from wealthy donors spoke more loudly than the pain and suffering of the average man and woman.

How does that tie into the immigration debate? Simple, it's the heavy donations from the private prison industry that are fueling this anti-Latino tinged movement. As, Chris Kirkham, of the the Huffington Post points out in an article from June of 2012 when he talked about how often regarding undocumented immigrants, a "routine traffic stop represents the front end of an increasingly lucrative commercial enterprise: the business of incarcerating immigrant detainees, the fastest-growing segment of the American prison population. [Undocumented immigrants] offer fresh profit opportunities for the nation's swiftly expanding private prison industry, which has in recent years captured the bulk of this commerce through federal contracts. By filling its cells with undocumented immigrants caught in the web of increased border security, the industry has seen its revenues swell at taxpayer expense.

"[…] In Washington, the industry's lobbyists have influenced policy to secure growing numbers of federal inmates in its facilities, while encouraging Congress to increase funding for detention bedspace. Here in this southern Arizona community, private prison companies share the spoils of their business with the local government, effectively giving area law enforcement an incentive to apprehend as many undocumented immigrants as they can.

"[…] This confluence of forces has contributed to a doubling of the ranks of immigrant detainees, to about 400,000 a year. Nearly half are now held in private prisons, up from one-fourth a decade ago, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The two largest for-profit prison companies, Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, Inc., have more than doubled their revenues from the immigrant detention business since 2005, according to securities filings." (

The idea that these are conservative donors is backed up in a blog post from March of 2012 written by Dre Cummings, in which he writes, "In his opinion piece Lobbyists, Guns and Money, [Paul] Krugman details the activities of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), a purported 'non-partisan' corporate backed lobbying organization and its massive emerging influence. Krugman writes:

"'What is ALEC? Despite claims that it's nonpartisan, it's very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn't just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word . And these bills often become law.

"'Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization - that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.'" (

Being smart about donations and playing the political game is one thing, but once you've become a slave to your source of cash and power, you can begin to lose perspective. With regards to the immigration issue, Republicans have really shot themselves in the foot and it hit them hard this fall with an outcome many predicted over a year ahead of time. In fact, even with the sweeping help of all the dollars and astroturfing of 2010's Tea Party movement, Republicans fell short of the kind of gains needed to do much more than sit lips tight, arms crossed and blue faced saying "no, no, no." They may have been able to take the Senate were it not for their unenlightened, short sighted stances on many issues including immigration. They were bought and held captive by the interests of a group that could only benefit them in the short term. In the long run it could really hurt them, as younger generations are becoming more open minded rather than less regarding many social issues. If the GOP doesn't change their behavior, although that could lead to more third party and independent presence on all sides of the spectrum were such a shakeup to occur. That could only benefit everyday Americans in the long run.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to
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