San Antonio’s City Manager Sheryl Sculley will roll out her department’s proposed city budget for 2012 at this Thursday’s Council meeting. Then the hard work starts: more than a month of meetings to undo what’s already locked into the system. Given that the city is expecting to have to cut between $8.5 and $19.9 million this year and between $78 million and $90 million in 2013, we expect there will be lots of interest in joining the suit-and-tie class this go ’round. Following Sculley’s delivery, there will be loads of departmental meetings, but specifically public meetings hit the district circuit starting next Tuesday in District 10 at the North East Service Center (10303 Tool Yard). See the schedule by clicking through at ci.sat.tx.us/council.
Euthanasia rising at ACS
Joel Hailey, a local lawyer and head of the animal-rights nonprofit, Hailey Foundation, plans to hold a rally on the steps of City Hall at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, protesting the uptick in animals euthanized by Animal Care Services over the past two years.
In June, city officials acknowledged that San Antonio can’t meet its goal of becoming a “no-kill” city by 2012, a goal set four years ago to stop the killing of healthy and adoptable animals in city shelters. Hailey said that while years of progress and city-driven efforts like the funding of more spay/neuter clinics helped cut the number of dogs and cats euthanized by the city in half (from over 30,000 to roughly 15,000 between 2006 to 2009), the number of animals euthanized by the city started to rise again last year. Given increasingly high monthly kill rates, Hailey said, the city’s now on track to euthanize over 20,000 cats and dogs by the end of this year, well above 2009’s low point of roughly 15,000.
Hailey insists city leaders should push for more funding for animal control programs to lower that. “We really had been reversing direction, we were on track. Now, we see a kill rate that’s going back up. We’re afraid the city has given up on that (no-kill) goal. They’re not doing enough,” he said. Hailey and other animal-rights activists have also called for the city to impose stricter penalties for those who violate the city pet ordinance.
Private prisons rake in profits
Can’t you quit your unemployment grousing for a damn minute and cheer our economic recovery?! Even if it is just a recovery for the big-money corporations that aren’t rushing out to hire y’all, it’s something. But here’s an interesting wrinkle: it’s not just the oil companies rubbing our noses in it (Tesoro’s up $200 million, Valero’s up $400 million, Exxon a confounding $3 billion) but those profiting off the incarceration of immigrants are rolling in it, too.
Last week, private prison giant GEO Group posted a 40-percent boost in second quarter profits, with a net income of $21.6 million, up from $17 million at the same point last year. As the flow of immigrant detainees has risen with increased federal enforcement efforts, private prisons have come to define the immigrant detention system. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of immigrants detained by ICE swelled from 240,000 to nearly 400,000, with half of those in for-profit prisons, according to Detention Watch Network.
GEO controls just over 7,000 immigrant detention beds across the country — nearly 2,000 in Texas alone. And last week’s earnings statements highlight just how much private-prison fortunes have grown in tandem with the uptick in immigrant detention. Private prison companies like the Corrections Corporation of America over a decade ago were struggling to stay afloat, laying off 40 percent of their employees in 1999. Times have certainly changed. This week CCA, which controls nearly 15,000 immigrant detention beds across the country, posted a 15.7-percent boost in quarterly profits with $82.7 million to show for the three months ending in July. In a conference call with investors to discuss CCA’s financial outlook, CCA President and CEO Damon Hininger declared, “As for the business going forward, we think this is the most favorable new development environment the industry has ever seen.”
John Hurley, head of GEO’s detention and corrections operations, said “continued growth in the criminal alien population” should continue to boost GEO’s fortunes in the coming years. Contracts with ICE to build and run a new immigrant detention center next door in Karnes County (expected to net $15 million a year) and operate another in Adelanto, Calif., (valued at $42 million annually) are a big part of that growth. As is a deal inked last December, the same month GEO secured the Karnes County contract (and was sued by the family of a detainee who died at GEO’s Reeves County detention center in Pecos), the company bought BI Incorporated, one of the largest providers of surveillance electronics in the country. In doing so, GEO inherited BI’s nearly $400 million contract to be the sole supplier of electronic monitoring systems for ICE’s Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP), which puts ankle monitors on immigrants awaiting court dates who are outside of detention.
Immigrant rights groups like Detention Watch Network have decried ICE’s heavy reliance on for-profit private prison contractors in the immigrant-detention system, given long-standing evidence of inmate abuse, lax oversight, and shoddy medical care that have plagued many privately run detention centers.
ICE goes ‘rogue’ on Secure Communities
Immigrant-rights groups were reeling late Friday after the federal government announced it would throw out its memorandums of agreements with all 39 states, including Texas, that have joined on to the Secure Communities program.
The fingerprint-sharing program run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has drawn sharp criticism from a number of states and cities hoping to opt out of the program, claiming it casts too wide a net and leads to the deportation of immigrants who have committed either minor offenses or no crime at all. The Department of Homeland Security threw out the agreements to quash the notion that any state buy-in is needed for the program, a point of contention since, unlike here, Massachusetts, New York, and Illinois have each vowed to ditch Secure Communities.
In an emailed statement Friday, DHS said ICE Director John Morton sent a letter to all governors terminating all existing Secure Communities agreements “in order to clarify that a memorandum of agreement between ICE and a state is not required to operate Secure Communities for any jurisdiction,” and to “avoid further confusion.” In essence, it scratches the existing agreements, but not the program itself, which the Obama administration has slated for nationwide implementation by 2013.
Chris Newman, legal director with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Cardozo School of Law has been suing for ICE to release internal documents related to Secure Communities, reacted by calling ICE a “rogue agency.” The program and its implementation, he charged, has been mired in secrecy and misinformation — including the initial claim from DHS that states, counties, and municipalities could, if they wanted to, opt out of Secure Communities. And the latest round of documents a federal judge forced ICE to release revealed that the FBI, in the shadows, actually helped craft the program and pushed to mandate it nationwide, hoping to make Secure Communities a part of “Next Generation Identification,” the bureau’s growing biometric identification-gathering program. In forcing the release, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled, “There is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities.”
In an emailed statement, NDLON’s Newman said, “The level of deception involved in [Secure Communities] so far has been alarming, but this moves things to another level.” •