Although apparently legal under current laws and regulations, the practice raises issues of accountability due to a growing number of incidents at such subcontracted detention facilities, according to the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy (CIP).
Tom Barry, a CIP senior policy analyst, states that this “lack of accountability and transparency and irresponsible profiteering are problems that are also prevalent in the very heart of Homeland Security operations ... largely outsourced using highly questionable bidding and contracting processes.”
Under current federal law and Department of Homeland Security regulations, Native American companies are favored recipients for immigrant detention contracts, and they reap large profits by assigning those contracts to non-Native American firms. One of the major Native-owned corporations that has received such contracts is Doyton Ltd., which holds the contract for operational, transportation and food services at the 800-bed El Paso Service Processing Center in El Paso, Texas.
According to CIP, “Doyton is one of twelve original Alaskan Native Regional Corporations created as part of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.” Under additional legislation passed by Congress, Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) were also permitted to participate in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) programs and allowed to win sole-source contracts, despite criticism from the Governmental Accounting Office which cited a lack of oversight and accountability of sole-source contracts granted to ANCs.
Federal contract awards to ANCs increased by over 900% from 2000 to 2008, jumping from $508.4 million in 2000 to $5.2 billion in 2008. Most of those contracts were with the Department of Defense, though the companies have branched out to other areas, including detention services.
Doyton operates several subsidiaries which include Doyton Government Group, Doyton Associated, Doyton Universal Services, Cherokee General Corporation and Doyton Drilling. As these various companies have preferential access to lucrative federal contracts, they are able to prosper even in areas like immigrant detention although they had no prior experience in that field prior to winning such contracts.
Doyton Security Services, one of the affiliated companies, states that it “has grown into a powerhouse in the security field during the past six years. Within the past twelve months this subsidiary has won over $266 million in new competitive contracts that employ 960 personnel in the homeland security-immigration and customs enforcement field.”
Doyton’s detention facility contracts have been subcontracted to the Sikh-owned Akal Security Company, which performs the actual day-to-day work required under the contracts. According to CIP, this allows “larger companies with real capacity [to] secure contracts that would otherwise be out of reach, since they don’t otherwise qualify as small businesses, minority businesses, or native corporations.”
Given such arrangements, it’s not surprising that a number of problems have occurred at ANC detention centers subcontracted to other companies. Another Alaska Native Corporation that has obtained detention facility contracts is Ahtna Development Corp., which, prior to obtaining those federal contracts, had no previous experience in correctional services.
Notwithstanding that fact, Ahtna, though its subsidiary, Ahtna Technical Services, Inc., received contracts to provide operational, maintenance and other support services at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in New York, Krome Service Processing Center in Florida, Port Isabel Service Processing Center in Texas and Varick Street Detention Facility in New York City.
In April 2009, two hundred immigrant detainees at the Port Isabel detention facility participated in a passive resistance campaign and hunger strike to protest alleged due process violations and inadequate medical care, according to Maria Muentes, an organizer with Families for Freedom.
A November 1, 2009 New York Times article shed light on problems at other Ahtna-run detention centers, including the Varick facility – where detainees complained of cramped, filthy conditions, inadequate medical care and insufficient food.
According to CIP, “the problems and concerns at the Varick detention center reflect the generalized state of immigrant detention abuses, vindictive and unreasonable transfers, and the lack of accountability and transparency in an immigration incarceration system that is largely outsourced to private firms.”
Sources: www.cipamericas.org, New York Times
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