| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Aug 1 For a handful of U.S. companies
that have exclusive or longstanding contracts with federal
agencies dealing with illegal immigrants, the recent wave of
children crossing the southern border with Mexico is a business
Private prison companies Geo Group and competitor
Corrections Corporation of America, for example, stand
to gain if Congress approves any emergency funding for family
detention facilities. The two companies have thousands of
unoccupied beds in their prisons and jails that potentially
could be modified to house immigrant families.
In the past six years, Geo Group was awarded nearly $880
million from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),
according to government contracting data compiled by
SmartProcure.us. In July, ICE, the agency responsible for
immigration detention, modified its contract with Geo Group to
convert the company's adult detention center in Karnes County,
Texas to house families.
The biggest potential windfall would come if Congress
approves a White House request for $3.7 billion in emergency
spending to address the crisis. But such a large package seems
unlikely to make it through a deeply divided Congress and a
resolution looks difficult before lawmakers' leave for their
The Obama administration has been scrambling to house tens
of thousands of children mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and
Guatemala who have flooded into the United States in recent
months, hoping to escape gang violence, poverty and domestic
abuse. Some are traveling with their families and others are
crossing the border alone.
An ICE spokesman declined to break out the cost of the
Karnes facility. Geo Group declined to comment and CCA did not
respond to requests for comment.
FLIGHTS AND MONITORS
The Geo Group could also benefit if lawmakers opt for
programs that promote alternatives to detention like electronic
monitoring systems used to track immigrants awaiting
The company's Colorado subsidiary Bi Incorporated is ICE's
sole provider of ankle bracelets for immigrants who have been
caught for violating immigration laws but released while their
cases are being processed. Bi has earned more than $211 million
from ICE since 2008 by providing GPS tracking devices and case
managers for the immigrants, according to the same government
A Senate bill proposed by Republicans John McCain and Jeff
Flake would mandate the monitors for juveniles 15 to 18 years
old while their immigration hearings are pending. ICE does not
currently use ankle bracelets for juveniles, the agency said.
The bill does not specify a supplier.
ICE uses the New Mexico-based CSI Aviation to provide
charter flights for deportations. The company has won more than
$657 million in contracts from ICE since 2008, SmartProcure data
shows. CSI referred all questions about its contracts to ICE.
ICE said the company is the sole contractor for ICE Air, which
conducts deportation flights.
President Barack Obama has vowed to swiftly return the
children and other illegal migrants from Central America to
their home countries. That could mean an increase in the number
of ICE charter flights in the coming months.
The federal government has also been buying tickets on
American Airlines for commercial flights to shuttle
unaccompanied kids and immigrant families to detention
facilities or shelters around the United States.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller declined to say how
much the government has spent on these flights or how many
tickets they have purchased. He said American did not have
formal contracts and that the tickets were being purchased on an
SHELTERS, SOCIAL WORKERS AND INTERPRETERS
Contracts to provide services and emergency supplies for
children arriving without their family members are handled
mostly by the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS,
which is legally responsible for kids that cross the border
The agency - tasked with sheltering unaccompanied children
and then placing them quickly into homes of relatives or family
friends - says it spends between $250 and $1,000 on each
unaccompanied child per day. More than 57,000 have arrived since
October, according to the U.S. Border Patrol, and the government
estimates that number could rise to 90,000 by the end of
HHS has turned to General Dynamics Information Technology,
or GDIT, a unit of the defense contracting giant General
Dynamics, to supply case-management services for kids
being released from temporary shelters, a Reuters review of
government contracts found. The job entails reviewing children's
cases to identify if they have special needs and to ensure the
kids are being transferred to safe homes.
Since 2010, GDIT has won around $13 million in contracts to
help the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of HHS, coordinate
the placement of unaccompanied minors, according to the
The company recently put out a flurry of online job
advertisements seeking bilingual social workers to handle
immigrant children's cases in Arizona, Texas, California,
Florida, Georgia and New York.
A GDIT spokesman said the company "offers expertise in
various areas, including ... social work specializing in
protective services and human rights." He declined to elaborate.
Some government contracts have gone to businesses that
provide emergency clothing and supplies for the youth shelters
and for translation services used in asylum hearings and
Lionsbridge Technologies, a translation company
from Waltham, Massachusetts, has seen government need for its
services "heighten over the past 60 to 90 days" as courts
scramble to wade through the flood of immigration cases, said
Eric Munz a vice president at Lionsbridge.
The company provides over-the-phone and in-person
interpreters, including for obscure indigenous languages spoken
in small Mexican and Central American communities.
And then there are companies like Products Unlimited, a
small outfit in Justin, Texas that depends wholly on government
work. The contracting data shows it was awarded about $40,000
worth of contracts so far this year to provide diapers and
pull-ups for babies and toddlers at an immigrant processing
center in Houston and a federally-run family detention center in
Artesia, New Mexico.
(Additional reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago and Richard
Cowan in Washington, editing by Amy Stevens and Ross Colvin)