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Company that operates immigration detention centers donated to Arizona GOP candidates

As the controversy over illegal immigration continues, it was revealed this week that Arizona political candidates received funding from a company that operates detention centers. Here, recently arrived migrant children play with family and volunteer children at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center on June 21, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. Once families and individuals are released from Customs and Border Protection to continue their legal process, they are brought to the center to rest, clean up, enjoy a meal and get guidance to their next destination. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday to stop the practice of separating families seeking asylum. Immigrant children were being separated from their parents under a zero-tolerance policy for illegal border-crossers. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Arizona Republicans received funding this year from a private prison company with “a long history of operating immigrant detention centers,” the Arizona Republic reported.

Martha McSally’s U.S. Senate campaign was among the recipients, according to the report.

Campaign contributions from the Geo Group are under scrutiny as liberals and immigration advocates zero in on the controversial issue of children and adults being separated when they attempt to illegally cross the U.S. border. Geo Group also owns private prisons, including one in Arizona, the report states.

What did the company give?

The Florida-based company in April gave $2,500 to McSally, a member of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee.

According to the report, Geo Group contributed $15,000 to U.S. Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, based on figures from the Center for Responsive Politics. The company also supported McCain during his 2016 Senate campaign, the report states.

Additionally, the company “gave $1,000 each to Steve Smith, a state senator running for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Steve Montenegro, a former state senator who also ran for the House in a special election earlier this year,” according to the report.

A Geo Group spokesman gave the Arizona Republic the following statement about its support of the politicians:

GEO's political and lobbying activities focus on promoting the benefits of public-private partnerships in the delivery of secure residential care in correctional and detention facilities; community reentry and supervision programs;...through the 'GEO Continuum of Care.' GEO does not take a position on nor advocate for or against criminal justice or immigration policies.

In Arizona, Geo Group runs the Florence West facility for the Arizona Department of Corrections. The minimum-security facility houses “500 non-violent prisoners and 250 men held as criminal aliens,” the Arizona Republic reported.

Geo Group also operates family detention centers, something that could grow in demand under new policies to limit family separations.

How did the company respond?

Geo Group was quick to distance itself from the controversial issue of illegal immigration and the separation of families.

"Our company has no involvement in any way with the policy in question, and the facilities we manage do not and have never housed unaccompanied minors," its spokesman told the Arizona Republic.

McSally said it was “welcome news” that Trump issued an executive order Wednesday to end the practice of separating the immigrant families.

The new policy does not grandfather in an estimated 2,300 migrant children already being held in detention centers as their families await rulings on their immigration status.

What are people saying?

McSally is competing for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is retiring.

She faces competition from Joe Arpaio, a former Maricopa County sheriff who is also seeking the GOP. Arpaio has been supportive of Trump's actions.

“You have to do what you have to do and follow the law, and there are repercussions," Arpaio told the newspaper. “Right now, (the kids) are being treated nice. They've got great food and everything else. They’re not being harmed.”

Kelli Ward, a former state senator also running against McSally, said the migrants are to blame for placing the children in harm's way, the Arizona Republic reported.

"No one wants to see children separated from their parents, but the moral crisis that we're facing here is that we have a wide-open border that's a magnet for bad people to bring bad things into our country: drugs, guns, people," Ward told Fox Business Network. "Our lax immigration laws and open borders have enabled these people to use children as chits in this process, where it behooves these bad people to get a kid to bring them to our border because they might be able to escape scrutiny and seek asylum."

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