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Billionaires George Soros and Bill Gates – both supporters of immigration reform – are investors in a controversial private prison firm that houses detained illegal aliens.

Soros and Gates are shareholders in GEO Group Inc., which operates prisons under contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

GEO has been represented by the lobby firm headed by Tony Podesta, the brother of White House counselor and Center for American Progress founder John Podesta.

GEO, the world’s largest operator of private prisons and detention centers, was known as the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation. It has faced a string of negative publicity following numerous deadly events in its prisons and accusations of inmate abuse and poor conditions.

Among its 59 U.S. prison facilities is the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash.

The GEO website describes the center as a “privately-owned detention facility under contract with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees pending removal process.”

While Soros and Gates support numerous immigration activist groups through their respective foundations, the immigrant groups may be surprised to learn the Northwest Detention Center does not offer educational or vocational training programs to those housed in its complex.

“Detainees may, however, participate in correspondence educational programs, at their own expense,” reads the center’s website.

Last week, nearly two dozen protesters reportedly picketed outside the Seattle headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over a $2.2 million investment by the Gates Trust into the prison firm.

WND has found that Soros purchased 105,354 shares of GEO Group Inc. between Dec. 31, 2007, and March 31, 2008.

Besides his work on behalf of so-called immigrant rights, Soros reportedly recently also funded a Chicago non-profit that helped to enroll prison inmates in Obamacare. The group, which calls itself Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, was also funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

GEO, meanwhile, was implicated in numerous controversies. In 2001, a jury awarded more than $40 million to the family of an inmate killed in a beating.

In another case, the company settled a lawsuit with the family of an inmate who committed suicide after claiming guards allowed others to rape her.

In 1999, the state of Texas reportedly ended a contract with GEO, which was then operated under the name of Wackenhut, following a class action lawsuit that eventually led to 11 guards and a manager being charged with sexually assaulting female prisoners.

A 2010 lawsuit alleges abuse and negligence at GEO’s Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility.

With research by Brenda J. Elliott.

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