In return for, well... nothing, the sun-kissed small town of Eloy, Arizona, is getting paid by the federal government.
Already home to an immigrant detention facility about an hour southeast of Phoenix, Eloy recently became the beneficiary of nearly a half-million dollars for simply managing the contract of another prison for undocumented immigrants—albeit a prison that's 920 miles from Eloy in Dilley, Texas.
Eloy's good fortune is the result of what private-prison critics say is a shady deal between U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest for-profit prison operator in America.
Last fall, when Texas and Arizona received an influx of tens of thousands of Central American immigrants—mostly children and their parents—ICE built a new detention facility in Dilley. ICE, however, didn't have the manpower to run the prison itself, so it enlisted a private company to do it for them.
But rather than have an open bid for the Dilley contract, ICE simply handed the job to CCA by modifying its existing contract with the town of Eloy, whose immigrant prison is also operated by CCA.
Somehow, Eloy is supposed to be accountable for a facility that houses up to 2,400 people in a town southwest of San Antonio, Texas. In return, Eloy gets $.50 per day per bed—or $438,000 annually—even if the beds are empty, according to Eloy City Manager Harvey Krauss.
"We just manage the money," Krauss told the Arizona Republic. "We receive the money, account for it and cut checks."
The money from the deal represents almost 10% of Eloy's annual general-fund budget of $5 million. Krauss said the funds will likely be used for building maintenance or other repairs.
"Believe me, it won't go to waste," he said.
But that's no consolation to critics of the deal, who wonder why Eloy gets paid without supervising CCA's performance in Dilley.
"It's absolutely mind-boggling," said Caroline Isaacs, program director for the Tucson-based chapter of the American Friends Service Committee. "Clearly, there are questions about accountability."
A CCA spokesman declined to comment on the deal.
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