Sanders, Arizona’s Grijalva call for ending use of privately run detention centers

By:  Chico Harlan

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) on Monday asked the Department of Homeland Security to end its use of privately operated detention centers, a step they said would save the government money and open the door for “more humane” alternatives.

The request — coming in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson — is hardly the first time politicians have criticized the use of privatized immigration detention centers. But it indicates how homeland security officials could face greater pressure to revisit their use of the for-profit facilities, coming days after the Department of Justice said it would wind down the use of private prisons.

U.S. immigration authorities currently maintain a sprawling network of detention centers for immigrants who have committed crimes, are pressing asylum claims, or are awaiting deportation. Stepping away from privatization would require a massive and difficult transformation for the federal government, forcing it to build its own detention centers, place more detainees in state and local facilities, or slash the number of immigrants being held. Nine of the 10 largest immigration detention facilities in the United States are private, run either by Corrections Corporation of America or the GEO Group.

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