The Jailing of Illegal Immigrants

By: Kelly Dawes

Let’s look beyond the walls of an advertising agency and face a current issue that consumes the daily thoughts of thousands of individuals in this country. Let’s take a step back and examine an escalating and real problem that even some of this agency’s consumers are affected by in their daily lives. This may be a topic you have briefly covered, or it could be the first time you have heard of its existence.  What you should take away from this article is that jailing undocumented immigrants is a problem not only for the state of Texas, but for the entire United States. Whether you care about the financial implications, the humanitarian issues at hand, or are concerned about the treatment of illegal immigrants; the jailing of undocumented immigrants is a gut wrenching topic that needs to be addressed.  We should care because many Hispanic families are being torn apart from the jailing of these thousands of illegal immigrants. Many second-generation children, specifically many Lateens, are actually watching their parents who are illegal immigrants being put behind bars. We should care because some of these individuals are the very consumers of even the products we market and advertise.

This story paints a vivid picture of what currently is happening to thousands of family each year:

At dawn on July 19, nearly 40 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Immigration (HSI) agents burst into the home of Carmen Bonilla, 44. The agents were searching for “Robert” an alleged drug dealer, but ended up terrifying Bonilla and her son Michael, 16, daughter Josefina, 23, daughter-in-law Leticia, 28, and two of her granddaughters.

According to Jessica Dominguez, the family’s lawyer, and Jorge Mario Cabrera, spokesperson of the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the family was subjected to “different levels of physical and verbal abuse,” including screaming, “kicking, beating and aggression.” (

This story paints a picture of what is currently happening but more importantly what consistently is happening; this story is not unique. What consistently happens to so many is that after they are sent to prison and are undocumented, the individual has to wait to appear before an immigration judge, which is supposed to take just a few days, but some of the individuals have been kept there for more than 2 years (Aggie R. Hoffman, an immigration attorney). Two years of waiting for a judge to ultimately decide your fate of whether you can stay here in the United States or have to return home to your country of origin. Two years of being apart from your family and instead locked up a facility that costs The Department of Homeland Security between $50 to $200 per day to local, county, and state prisons to house illegal immigrants. Not only is this costing our government large expenses each day, but businesses are profiting off of this housing since many of the prisons are privately run. The Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest for profit prison company, with other prison companies own more than 200 private prisons with 150,000 beds and makes an annual profit of $5 billion ( Within the last few years, state legislations as well as the Obama administration have turned to more restrictive enforcement. The laws coupled with the increase in enforcement have the potential to bring tens of thousands of individuals into for-profit jails.

Just last week, Texas and California formed a rare alliance between two states that typically bleed red and blue in their political stance, and secured $240 million in federal funds to pay for jailing illegal immigrants (Los Angeles Times, November 16, 2011). Indeed, this is more of a significant issue for California and Texas than almost every other state not only because of their geographic location along the border between Mexico, but also because of their state’s huge population size. Furthermore what makes this alliance to preserve federal funds unusual is that Washington is currently pushing to reduce its debt by eliminating federal reimbursements for state prisons and local jails that house 300,000 convicted illegal immigrants nationwide.

It’s a problem that is not going away any time soon. Overcrowded prisons have historically been a hot topic of debate, but until recently the publicity of illegal immigrants and their mistreatment within those walls had not been uncovered. Our hope should be that not only the Presidential elections next fall will cover this topic and provide ideas and concrete tactics towards solutions, but that our local and state legislators continue to address this as being a real and lasting issue. Our hope resides there as our knowledge on this topic will continue to grow.


1 Benjamín Solano { 06.22.12 at 12:33 am }

Hi, I just met this site and I think the topics in here are very interesting for me and many others. I do think that this specific jailing situation is a problem for both, US government and Latin families, but I truly believe is that any person should be treated the way they are treated in jail and before getting into it, at the end we all have the same human rights and we deserve respect as human beings.

2 Javier Alan Romo Serrano { 06.23.12 at 6:51 pm }

Hi, I can’t believe that a person can not be in other part of the world with freedom, not only because other country think that they are superior but also because of racism.

I can’t understand why they do it whether most of the people that live there are the most economically active people, they are the most worker people that United States of North America has.

The problem, like this article mentions, is the separation of the families, that it makes that the lateen gets alone, so it is unacceptable. I think that in my case, Mexican government must fight more for the ilegal inmigrant in order to avoid this violence versus our nation.

Leave a Comment