Chuck Schumer, right, confers with fellow Senator John McCain as the Gang of Eight announces its immigration reform proposal. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senator Chuck Schumer is the leading Democrat from the Gang of Eight lawmakers that have been crafting a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Schumer has used various opportunities to take credit for progress on that bill. Activists, on the other hand, want to take him to task for garnering more than $100,000 dollars in campaign contributions from private immigrant detention lobbyists.

Schumer had already stated that an immigration legislation draft was almost completed last week when we heard news that labor and business had come to an agreement on addressing future flow—boosting its chances in Congress. Senator Marco Rubio scrambled to re-center attention on himself by issuing a press release shortly before Sunday’s talk shows, calling a deal on immigration immature. Rubio stressed the need for more public debate, additional committee hearings and amendments—all of which will likely dilute any of the bill’s pro-immigrant protections. Nevertheless, Schumer assured Meet the Press on Sunday that he is “very, very optimistic” that the Gang of Eight will strike an agreement next week.  

Pro-immigrant activists want to believe that Schumer is working on a bill that prioritizes a pathway to citizenship. But they say that’s difficult because of the contributions he has garnered from the private detention business.

A coalition of activist groups protested outside of Schumer’s Manhattan office yesterday, denouncing the senator’s mismatched positions on immigration. delivered nearly 30,000 signatures gathered online, urging Schumer to return the money he has received from the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group—two of the largest private detention facilities that house undocumented immigrants.

Activists also walked door-to-door yesterday, and distributed door hangers in New York City’s five boroughs, calling out what they say is Schumer’s “Latino problem.” They say that Latino voters, who are credited with helping sway the last election, are expecting an immigration bill that focuses on keeping families together, but that Schumer’s financial backers do the work of helping to tear them apart. Schumer’s spokesperson, Max Young, told the NY Daily News that the senator is working to create a bill that includes a path to citizenship—but his statement didn’t address to what degree Schumer is beholden to his campaign contributors.

Private immigrant detention corporations are literally invested in keeping their beds filled with undocumented immigrants. The Obama administration continues to deport a record number of immigrants, and those deportees’ last stop is often in a private detention facility, which profits from a cruel system. On the stock market, the CCA and GEO Group’s shareholders essentially transact in publicly traded criminalization schemes that target certain human beings for immigrant detention. As activists are pointing out, those earnings then go to underwrite Schumer’s campaigns—and they want an end to it.

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