There’s a new tactic in the battle against ICE’s detention network: Defund the private prison companies that operate these facilities.
The movement for divestment from the detention-industrial complex will not in itself alter the Trump administration’s increasingly aggressive anti-immigrant policies. But a campaign to target two massive corporate prison contractors, CoreCivic and GeoGroup, through their chief creditors, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan, demonstrates the crucial link between the banking system and government investment in immigrant jails.
“These financiers…are essential to the business model of what is effectively a morally bankrupt industry,” says Daniel Altschuler, Director of Civic Engagement and Research for Make the Road New York. The group is part of a coalition of more than 70 organizations, including the ACLU and National Domestic Workers Alliance, that demands that Wells Fargo and JP Morgan stop financing the massive network of privately run ICE facilities.
Wall Street firms are leading financiers for not just prisons but other morally shady enterprises, ranging from weapons manufacturing to the toxic debts sinking Puerto Rico’s economy. But immigration is a particularly promising investment prospect under the Trump administration, with the flow of contracts closely tracking the right-wing turn in the politics of the border.
Toward the end of the Obama administration, there had been some efforts to sever federal contracts with private prison companies. But President Trump has drastically inflated both the number and capacity of detention facilities, while migrant families at the border are being automatically detained and ICE raids in immigrant communities are leading to mass arrests and detentions. ICE detention investments have subsequently soared.
In recent months, several fresh federal contracts have been issued for private facilities designed for the mass incarceration of detainees in Texas, and CoreCivic’s federal contracts have exploded by more than 900 percent. Altogether ICE now has enough beds to warehouse about 34,000 people per year. Detentions are primarily administered through private prisons, which have also been linked for years to scandals and lawsuits involving depriving detainees of medical care, abuse of transgender migrants, and other human-rights violations.