Illinois Governor Profits Off ICE Detention Center Contracts

Illinois Governor Profits Off ICE Detention Center Contracts

Gov. Bruce Rauner this year reported turning a profit from a health care group that services U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, including facilities that hold immigrant families with children.

In his most recent statement of economic interests, the multi-millionaire Republican governor disclosed earnings from a private equity fund that owns Correct Care Solutions, a for-profit health care provider that has millions of dollars in government contracts with jails and prisons across the country, including immigrant detention centers.

The governor said he relinquished investment decisions to a third party and has no direct ties to Correct Care Solutions, a group whose work extends to places like Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, one of just four immigrant family detention centers in the country contracted for profit.

Still, Rauner’s disclosures indicate that he’s earning income from the group, which reports annual revenue of $1 billion.

The financial connection between a sitting governor and for-profit ICE detention contractors is one that immigration rights groups insist is a clear conflict of interest. They also point to Correct Care Solutions’ track record involving dozens of lawsuits alleging wide-ranging negligence.

The debate comes at a time when states are wrestling with how to navigate volatile changes to an immigration system under President Donald Trump. And it takes place as for-profit correctional contractors have seen their earnings soar under the Trump administration’s controversial immigration policies, including one that created a public firestorm over forced family separations.

Rauner, facing a rocky road to reelection this November in this heavily Democratic state, has been reluctant to even mention Trump’s name. While he did speak out against family separations, he didn’t create as much distance from the president’s policy as several other blue-state Republican governors. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan recalled or declined to deploy National Guard troops in response to the policy, but Rauner last month wouldn’t commit to refusing a potential request by Trump to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexican border.

ast year, Rauner was strongly criticized by conservatives for signing into law the Illinois Trust Act, a bill limiting local authorities’ role in enforcing immigration laws.

One watchdog group said the third-party management of Rauner’s finances — an arrangement which stops short of a true blind trust — does not inoculate the governor from criticism about financial gain and called on him to divest of any funds involving immigrant detention centers.

Rauner’s campaign told POLITICO he had no plans to do so.

“He should not be in any way profiting off of this,” said Donald Cohen, executive director of In the Public Interest, a national watchdog group that monitors privatization and advocates for responsible government contracting. “It’s morally reprehensible.”

Cohen said even if Rauner’s holdings were in a complete blind trust, making money off of immigration centers puts him in a precarious ethical position, given policy decisions he might have to make regarding immigration and prison privatization.

“He is the leader of his entire state. He is participating in it. There’s no other way to say it: You’re making money from that? You are complicit, period. Complicit in the poor care that’s happening in prisons; complicit with what’s going on with immigration in our country,” Cohen continued. “He should not be investing in anything where he can as a policy maker have to make a decision related to those issues.”