Over the last few decades, and particularly after 9/11, we have witnessed the increasing criminalization of immigrants in the United States. Changing policies have subjected immigrants to intensified apprehension and detention programs. This essay provides an overview of the context and policies that have produced the rising criminalization of immigrants. We draw on the institutional theory of migration to understand the business of detention centers and the construction of the immigration-industrial complex. We link government contracts and private corporations in the formation of the immigration-industrial complex, highlighting the increasing profits that private corporations are making through the detention of immigrants. We conclude with a discussion of how the privatization of detention centers is part of a larger trend in which basic functions of societal institutions are being farmed out to private corporations with little consideration for basic human rights.

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