CLC Files Suit to Compel ICE to Disclose Private Prison Operating Agreements

Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a lawsuit in D.C. District Court against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) for failing to disclose their operating agreements with a private prison in Washington State. GEO Corrections Holdings Inc., one of the largest private prisons in the country, has a role in operating the facility, but the extent of that role is unclear. CLC submitted its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to ICE on December 8, 2017, but it has produced no documents. ICE was legally required to respond within 20 days.

GEO was a major donor to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, contributing a total of $225,000 in 2016 to the super PAC Rebuilding America Now. The first contribution came one day after the Obama Administration announced its decision to phase out the use of private prisons, a decision that was immediately reversed after Jeff Sessions became Attorney General in February 2017. CLC has a campaign finance complaint pending before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that GEO’s contributions to Rebuilding America Now violated the ban on federal contractors making political contributions.

“Public officials are supposed to make contracting decisions based on what is best for the public, not based on who spent the most money getting them elected,” said Mark Gaber, senior legal counsel at CLC. “The public has a right to know where their tax dollars are being spent on federal contracts, so ICE should not try to hide their operating agreements from public view. If GEO has a role in operating the facility in Washington, this is further evidence that their contributions in 2016 were illegal. We expect the District Court to compel ICE to be transparent – and produce documents that shed light on this relationship.”