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As seen through fencing, migrants—including a young child—stand while being detained by Department of Homeland Security police after crossing to the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border barrier, on June 27, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.

As seen through fencing, migrants—including a young child—stand while being detained by Department of Homeland Security police after crossing to the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border barrier, on June 27, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

It's Not Just Trump: New Report Details How Greed of 'Border-Industrial Complex' Fuels Militarization and Abuse

"The last three decades have witnessed an unstoppable boom in U.S. border spending and many arms, security, and IT firms have made millions as a result."

Eoin Higgins

A new report detailing the ways U.S. corporations are profiting off of President Donald Trump's war on immigrants calls the partnership between security firms and the federal government a "powerful border–industrial complex," the existence of which presents a major barrier to reform, and explains that making money off of the border is nothing new. 

"More Than a Wall," the report from the Transnational Institute, "looks at the history of U.S. border control and the strong political consensus—both Republican and Democrat—in support of border militarization that long pre-dates the Trump administration."

The report lays out how both Democratic and Republican administrations have regularly increased the budget for border enforcement since the 1980s, and how the constant flow of cash has created a powerful industrial and political force invested in maintaining the oppressive policies which have contributed to the Trump-era immigration detention crisis.

Just 14 companies are considered the power players in the industry: Accenture, Boeing, Elbit, Flir Systems, G4S, General Atomics, General Dynamics, IBM, L3 Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, PAE, Raytheon, and UNISYS. But, as the report explains, it's not just corporations—research centers and universities are making money off of border security as well. 

Corporations have not been the only ones to benefit. Universities and research institutes have also cashed in through nine Centers of Excellence (COEs) on Borders, Trade, & Immigration that in 2017 received $10 million directly, with another $90 million dedicated to research and development (R&D). The University of Houston, University of Arizona, the University of Texas El Paso, University of Virginia, West Virginia University, University of North Carolina, University of Minnesota, Texas A&M, Rutgers University, American University, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, and the Migration Policy Institute all receive DHS funding.

Without addressing the profit motive, says the report, there's little chance of making real change.

"Any strategy to change the direction of US policy on migration will require confronting this border–industrial complex and removing its influence over politics and policy," the report says. "For while those corporations who profit from the suffering of migrants remain embedded in positions of power within government and society, it will be a huge challenge to forge a new approach that puts the lives and dignity of migrants first."


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