Housing Migrants Is a For-Profit Business. Members of Congress Are Doing Their Part.

Charles P. Pierce
Photo credit: Joe Raedle - Getty Images

From Esquire

Last week, we were chatting here in the shebeen about a remarkable woman named Emily Hobhouse, a British social worker and radical who took upon herself the job of informing the British people and the world of the atrocities the Empire was committing in its South African concentration camps during the Second Boer War. The parallels to the news of the day seemed obvious. It is important now to realize that the camps that so horrified Hobhouse consisted of women and children living in tents.

So imagine my non-surprise to discover that, as a solution to the bad publicity it was getting for housing migrant children in terrible conditions, the administration* decided to move some of the kids out of some of the worst conditions and off to another site to live...in tents! From The New York Times:

Some 249 of the children were transferred into a shelter system maintained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, according to Ms. Stauffer; an unknown number of others were sent to a temporary tent facility in El Paso, according to Elizabeth Lopez-Sandoval, a spokeswoman for Congresswoman Veronica Escobar, Democrat of Texas, who began looking into the overcrowded facility in Clint last week after reports about the conditions there.

The average temperature in June in El Paso is 98 degrees. In July, it's 97. In August, it's 94. And "temporary" in this context, and with this crowd running things, has developed a very flexible new definition. Of course, if the kids are still in the tents in November, things will have cooled to an average of 66. The great outdoors!

Photo credit: PAUL RATJE - Getty Images

Anyway, because this is America, where the enterprise is always free, and because this is 2019, almost a decade after the Supreme Court legalized influence-peddling, our politicians are free to take money from those who make money off facilities like these, because that's what keeps us free. From the Dallas Morning News:

The GEO Group’s PAC and executives have given $32,900 to Houston Republican Rep. John Culberson’s campaign this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org. GEO is Culberson's largest donor. In Texas, GEO operates detention centers for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Karnes City, Laredo, Pearsall and Conroe.

Culberson received the most funding from GEO out of Texas members of Congress, but GEO is also the top donor this cycle for U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who received $32,400, and Round Rock Republican Rep. John Carter, who received $31,600. Both Culberson and Cuellar serve on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, which funds private immigration detention centers. Culberson is also the chairman of and Carter serves on the House Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice and science, which oversees funding for private prisons.

There's the usual yadda-yadda from spokesfolk about how this is really about constituent service; Cuellar's mouthpiece argues that there are so many prisons in Cuellar's district, that Cuellar's getting correction-industry money is like, say, Jay Inslee getting money from yacht manufacturers.

"If you live in a district in the state of Washington, you get boating money. If you live in a district in Nebraska, you get agriculture money. We have a district with lots of jail facilities that employ lots of people,” Strother said.

That may be, but there is a historic exercise in human misery being undertaken by the United States government in South Texas right now, and if you take money from people making a pile out of that misery, you're complicit. Sorry, but that's the iron logic of atrocities.

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