By: Greg Jette


Immigration policy remains a contentious issue at both the federal and state levels,and post 9/11, has overwhelmingly favored detention and deportation strategies. Private detention companies have gained increasing political and economic influence as national rhetoric has characterized many immigrant groups as posing a threat to national security. As a result, private detention companies have been successful in influencing policy and increasing detention facilities, particularly in states facing fiscal crises. The short-term economic gains from private detention facilities, such as industry jobs and income from prisons, may dwarf the long-term economic and social costs, however.

About the Author: 

Greg Jette is a second year M.P.A. candidate studying Government, Politics and Policy Analysis at Cornell University. Greg grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts and attended nearby Tufts University and the Autonomous University of Madrid for his undergraduate studies. After graduating from Tufts University in 2008 with a B.A. in International Relations, Greg worked in the Massachusetts State Legislature as a legislative aide to Revenue Committee Chairman Jay Kaufman. Following his graduate studies, Greg plans to relocate to Washington D.C. and work in the private sector as a management consultant to the federal government with a focus in emergency preparedness and labor policy.

Migration policy, defined as policy dealing with the transit of persons or groups across borders into a country, affects the capacity of a migrant to establish connections to political and social networks. Barriers to political and social incorporation in the United States prevent migrants from accessing critical human services, such as education, adequate nutrition, healthcare, emergency services, and affordable housing. In the United States, private detention enterprises play an increasingly important role in defining migration policy and guiding the dialogue that surrounds it. Current detention policy affects the ability of migrant groups, particularly the undocumented, to participate in their communities through public engagement forums. Additionally, detention facilities create hostile environments for political and social engagement that promotes detention rather than integration, leading to policies that are destructive to community and family networks.

Both Arizona and California rely on private detention facilities to house and process undocumented migrants until they can be processed and deported to their respective countries of origin. A prevailing perception exists in both states that detention policy offers an effective solution to undocumented migration,while providing a source of economic stimulus and stability. This misperception is slowly shifting as more information suggests that private detention is not the answer to either economic instability or undocumented migration.


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Cornell Policy Review

Cornell Policy Review

Cornell Policy Review

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