GEO Group said it has no involvement in decisions related to detention or monitoring cases. In a statement sent to El Nuevo Herald, spokesman Pablo Paez said his company does not lobby or advocate on matters related to immigration policy.
“Per our contract with ICE, our company is unable to answer any questions about the Intensive Supervision and Appearance Program,” Paez wrote.
A copy of the contract between ICE and BI Inc. is available on ICE’s website. Most details regarding the cost of the program have been redacted from the document, with the exception of the total price that the government paid for the monitoring services: $372,814,176 for a five-year period — from July 2009 to July 2014.
After an initial detention of three months at the same immigration detention center in 2010, Rojas didn’t comply with a judge’s order to leave the country and was arrested by ICE again in 2012. He was detained a total of 10 months, which represented at least $35,000 in costs to the federal government.
“That money could be used in more constructive things to help the community,” said Rojas, who arrived in Florida as a tourist in 2000 with his family and has been trying since to adjust his immigration status. “They know I’m not going anywhere after fighting so hard to stay in this country with my family.”
For more than a decade, human rights and immigration activists’ organizations had questioned why the federal government continued to build and rent immigration jails instead of implementing alternative programs to monitor immigrants in the system. From Feb. 9 to March 1, ICE released about 2,228 immigrants nationwide for reasons relating to the budget sequester in Washington. Of these, 225 were released within the jurisdiction of ICE’s deportation unit in Miami, which includes Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
ICE identified detainees who were candidates for the alternative programs to detention, which prompted questioning from groups that advocate for human rights and civil liberties and activists like Abdollahi.
“Many of those who were recently released remained deprived of their freedom for months or years, despite qualifying to be out of jail,” said Abdollahi, who, along with other activists, has used his undocumented status to “infiltrate” detention centers nationwide in order to spotlight stories of detainees.