Immigrants for Sale: How Private Prisons Exploit Aspiring Americans

Five billion dollars.

That’s how much profit private prison corporations are making on immigration detention centers a year, according to the documentary “Immigrants For Sale.” 

The Latino activist organization Cuéntame produced the documentary that depicts the lives of many families who have been victims of the immigration system.

How Private Prisons Benefit from a Broken Immigration System

Among those benefiting from the system is the country’s leading private prison corporation, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which runs a large number of the private immigration detention centers in the U.S. 

The documentary notes that many anti-immigrant policies instituted by various states in recent years, including Arizona’s SB 1070, are uniquely tied to private prison corporations. According to the film, SB 1070 was largely drafted by CCA and, once enacted, the legislation contracted CCA to hold detainees for the state of Arizona.

“Immigrants for Sale” exposes the relationship between harsh anti-immigrant policies and the private immigrant prison system that has emerged within the last two decades.

The documentary highlights the various human rights abuses that have taken place within these facilities, including inmate deaths, lack of adequate health care, and the moving of immigrants from one detention center to another without notifying their families.

Film Gives Voice to Immigrants and Their Families

What sets this film apart is firsthand accounts from those most impacted, like the heartbreaking story of Guillermo Gomez, a mentally challenged individual detained by ICE who endured horrible abuse at a privately owned facility.

The prison neglected to accommodate Gomez’s condition, opting to put him in solitary confinement and beat him excessively for not listening to orders. Gomez’s mother, interviewed in “Immigrants for Sale,” explains how her son had been moved around a lot within the system, often times without notifying her of his move.

To many, it is inconceivable to imagine living conditions for immigrants in detention centers. When we hear about human rights abuses within these centers, we see them as abstract and rare events.

But “Immigrants For Sale” humanizes the experiences of families who must deal with this broken immigration system, and sheds light on a topic that is not usually discussed in mainstream media. The film explains the complex relationship between legislation and private immigrant detention centers, discussing the implications of this relationship on immigrant families.

These are not cases of human rights abuses in less "developed" nations; these are human rights abuses happening within The United States of America. This is not about being legal and illegal, being white, black, or brown. It is about taking action to put an end to these private detention centers because it is the moral thing to do.

Come Watch "Immigrants for Sale" on June 6th 

Together with our allies at BAJI (Black Alliance for Just Immigration) and ACUDIR (Alameda County United in Defense of Immigrant Rights), we're inviting you to a free community screening of "Immigrants for Sale."  

Come join us at 6pm on Thursday, June 6th, in the Ella Baker Center offices, 1970 Broadway (at 20th Street), Suite 450, in downtown Oakland.  RSVP to reserve your seat: or 510-285-8244 (Rhina).  

We want as many people as possible to see this film, so please invite anyone you think would be interested and share the flyer widely!

Download and share the "Immigrants for Sale" flyer

Photo credit: Jack Kurtz