LOS ANGELES, Aug. 4, 2015—Days ahead of the first Republican debate, Politico highlights a new Monmouth University poll that has Trump at 26 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker trail Trump at 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
So despite the GOP establishment and other Republican candidates’ efforts to discount his seriousness, it appears to be “all Trump, all the time.”
The tragedy is that it is more about Trump’s bombastic statements and larger-than-life personality than it is about the issues he has brought to the forefront of the race. They are real issues that much of the conservative and Republican base cares a great deal about, but that the majority of the Republican candidates are simply sugar-coating or bypassing. Take the case of criminal illegals, which gained some traction after the death of Kathryn Steinle. Despite the media’s pivot to chase other breaking news, it still remains a concern for many Americans.
In Montana on July 29, Jesus Deniz, an 18-year-old Mexican national who police claim was in possession of a phony green card, executed Jason and Tana Shane, a Native American couple who had stopped to offer assistance to him when they saw he was having trouble with his car. Deniz also shot and wounded Jorah Shane, the couple’s 26-year-old daughter, when she attempted to escape. Deniz told police he committed the homicides because the man was too slow helping with his disabled vehicle and the daughter laughed at him. Despite how the media ignores or downplays such acts, it is a growing cancer on the face of the nation.
When Trump visited Laredo, Texas, a few weeks ago, he was asked a question about the 11 million illegals already in the United States and what he planned to do about them. Trump responded, “The first thing we need to do is strengthen our borders, then we’ll have plenty of time to talk about the ones already here.”
As much as I like Trump for his bluster, bravado and fearlessness in stomping all over the mainstream media and getting his point across, he falls in line with all the other Republican politicians: giving lip service to securing the border without any major strides toward dealing with the actual problem of criminal illegals.
The truth of the matter is that crime, particularly the crime of entering the country illegally, is an engine that fuels parts of the U.S. economy.
And it is a problem—not just the fact that they enter our country multiple times and commit crimes, most recently the murder of this couple—but the fact that this population in general is being used as a cash cow for what has become known as the “Prison Industrial Complex.”
This writer interviewed Larry Levine, director and founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants and a legal analyst. A former prisoner himself, Larry has insider knowledge not only on the federal prison system, but also on the way these systems work toward sustaining the prison population, rather than rehabilitation.
Over a 10-year period, Larry served time in 11 different federal correctional institutions across the West and Midwest, including the gang-infested La Tuna Federal Prison on the El Paso, Texas-Mexican border. When asked about whether Trump’s commentary on criminal illegals is valid, he shifted the question to incorporate a different perspective:
“The bigger question is the money we spend on prosecution, transportation and incarceration of illegal immigrants. You look at the money funneled through FBOP [Federal Bureau of Prisons], private prisons and individual communities, and you discover why the presidential administrations and Congress have no real interest in solving the illegal immigration issue.”
This only confirmed my own suspicions on the matter. From President Reagan to President George W. Bush, lots of lip service has been given to the “plight” of illegal immigrants and securing the border without any concrete action.
According to a 2012 AP report, two private prisons are personally invested in ensuring they have customers for the long haul. They contribute mostly to Republican campaigns and lobby Congress to ensure this happens. Over the last several years, their particular staple has been the housing of illegal immigrants who are repeat offenders of crossing the border and committing felonies:
“The industry’s giants – Corrections Corporation of America, The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp. — have spent at least $45 million combined on campaign donations and lobbyists at the state and federal levels in the last decade, the AP found.
“CCA and GEO, who manage most private detention centers, insist they aren’t trying to influence immigration policy to make more money, and their lobbying and campaign donations have been legal.”
Levine is not buying it, painting a different picture of what a functioning prison does for the economy.
“That institution essentially injects several hundred billions a year into the economy. How quick do you think a congressman or a senator is going to want that institution closed and potentially put several hundred or several thousand people in their judicial district out of work? Look at the financial impact that will have. You think they are going to vote for that?”
Despite noises to the contrary, their votes have reflected more about keeping a system viable, and less about reform. While Trump has made the most substantive noise about this so far, any Republican presidential candidate worth his salt should be laying out a plan on how he or she will be able to take concrete action to change not only what happens on the border, but what happens to illegals, particularly criminal illegals, within the U.S. prison system.
“See, on your first trip into the U.S. they will just automatically deport you,” Levine said. “But if you get caught for illegal re-entry they don’t automatically deport you. Whatever crime you’ve done plus the illegal re-entry charge, they’re going to tag you with.
“So it’s kind of like a revolving door. And you’ll get to spend some time in a federal detention center run by the BOP [Bureau of Prisons] like MDC Los Angeles or something, but eventually they’re going to kick these people down into an immigration detention center, where they’ll spend their time, they’ll have shitty accommodations, and eventually they’ll be released and they’ll get to go home. It cost a lot of money to house people and such.”
The Prison Industrial Complex is nothing new. Investigative journalists and social activists have been talking about it for years. Author Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”) wrote a piece of that name for the Atlantic in 1998 and boldly stated:
“The prison-industrial complex is not a conspiracy, guiding the nation’s criminal-justice policy behind closed doors. It is a confluence of special interests that has given prison construction in the United States a seemingly unstoppable momentum. It is composed of politicians, both liberal and conservative, who have used the fear of crime to gain votes; impoverished rural areas where prisons have become a cornerstone of economic development; private companies that regard the roughly $35 billion spent each year on corrections not as a burden on American taxpayers but as a lucrative market; and government officials whose fiefdoms have expanded along with the inmate population.”
That was in 1998, so the number is now estimated in the $45-50 billion range. Schlosser has expanded his research over the past 17 years and will release his new book, “The Great Imprisonment,” in 2018. Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” was a best-seller and dealt a serious body blow to the fast food industry. Now Schlosser hopes to do the same to America’s expanding prison systems, as he explores how rising incarceration rates are intertwined with social factors like growing inequality.
Levine has seen first-hand what Schlosser has only researched. “They build these prisons in the middle of nowhere because land is cheap. Resources are cheap. The labor is much cheaper. You’re also getting less educated people. They want to put these people in the middle of nowhere. Then it becomes inconvenient,” he said.
The economics not only factor into the housing of prisoners, but also into the housing of loved ones who want to see these prisoners. “Pick an immigration detention center that has a thousand people in it that are serving their sentences and waiting for deportation,” Levine continues. “There are families are coming to visit them. Their families are going to stay at motels on the local economy, they’re going to eat at restaurants on the local economy, and on and on.
“So when you inject a lot of money into a local economy, it helps the region and it helps the economy—so there is no vested interest for them to want to close these institutions. The local economy is the real winner. Who is the real loser? The taxpayer. We’re subsidizing the local economies of small communities by keeping people locked up.”
So if locking up criminal illegals is only feeding into this corrupt system, and deporting them is not working, what is the better way?
Levine favors the hard line: tighter borders and no amnesty. “They should probably deport them. Here’s why: What if we wipe out their sentences and we incorporate them into society. What are they going to do when they go back to society? Are they all of a sudden going to be—I’ll sound like Donald Trump for a minute—are they all of a sudden going to be living off the government on the social welfare system, because they’re uneducated? They don’t have a job. They’re affiliated with gangs. That’s the majority of them. I think that we have enough problems of our own in the United States with our own people that we should worry about our own people first. I don’t care if you’re from the U.K. or Canada, or Mexico, doesn’t matter what country you’re from. You’re an illegal here, you should probably be deported.
“We’ve got to spend more money on enforcement, more money on border patrol to try to keep our borders safe and to keep them out.”
Whether Donald Trump wins the nomination is yet to be seen. What he has done is open the door to border enforcement and handling of criminal illegals being the central topic for 2016. The other Republican candidates need to adjust their tone and change their tune; otherwise they will continue to be left in the dust.