Daily Dispatch 10/17/2019: Another death in ICE custody

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Daily Dispatch

October 17, 2019

Roylan Hernandez-Diaz
Image, uncredited on Buzzfeed article

Roylan Hernandez-Diaz crossed the border in El Paso in May this year, requesting asylum. He was handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and placed in detention to await processing of his asylum claim. In August he “passed” a credible fear interview, meaning a review of his case indicated that there was enough reason to believe that his life would be under threat if returned to Cuba to warrant continuing with the asylum process. Yet, ICE continued to keep him in detention. 

In August, ICE was holding more than 55,000 people in detention. At the same time, the agency was decrying a lack of resources and the Department of Homeland Security was shifting money from other accounts in order to pay for ICE’s over-budget detention priorities. And yet, Roylan was just one of close to 9,000 asylees still in detention after passing a credible fear interview.

Roylan began a hunger strike to protest his continued detention. He was placed in solitary confinement, and yesterday he is reported to have hung himself in an apparent suicide while still in solitary confinement at the Richwood Correctional Facility, a private prison run by LaSalle Corrections in Louisiana. From Buzzfeed:

In September, Hernandez-Diaz again sought to be released from US detention. On Oct. 8, the ICE office in New Orleans denied his release once more, the report stated. A day later, his case in immigration court was reset to January. Advocates sued ICE earlier this year… over its low rate of release for asylum-seekers in the southern region.

Two days after he was denied his release from ICE custody, the detention center segregated Hernandez-Diaz from the other inmates after he threatened a hunger strike.

While officers at the detention center noticed he had been eating meals on Oct. 11 and 12, by Tuesday they told ICE officials that Hernandez-Diaz had missed his “ninth consecutive meal and declared a hunger strike, citing his frustration with the immigration process.”

Then, on Tuesday just after 2 p.m., medical staffers at the detention center declared him dead of suicide in the cell.

The case needs to be investigated independently. 

Hernandez-Diaz’s wife, Yarelis Gutierrez, 43, said she last spoke to him on Oct. 9 after an immigration court hearing. She described her husband as angry and disappointed after being asked to provide more evidence about his persecution in Cuba because it was difficult to obtain, especially from within ICE detention.

“He told me he was going to participate in a hunger strike because of the abuse he endured in detention,” Gutierrez told BuzzFeed News. “He never said he was going to hurt or kill himself. This is all news to me and I don’t believe it’s true.”

Roylan is the second person to die in ICE custody in the last two weeks. On October 2, Nebane Abienwi, a 37 year old asylum seeker from Cameroon died at the Otay Mesa Detention Facility in San Diego. Otay Mesa is also run by a private company – CoreCivic.

Last fiscal year (Oct 2018 to Sept 2019), eight adults died while in ICE custody and another eight children died during, or immediately after release from detention by Border Patrol or the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

There is no reason that Roylan should have still been incarcerated, certainly not after his affirmative credible fear finding. Now he is dead. 

#AbolishICE

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Daily Dispatch 10/16/2019: Mexico’s two border crises made in the U.S.

Migrants walk down Highway 200 en route to Huixtla near Tapachula, Chiapas state, Mexico, Saturday Oct. 12, 2019. Migrants from Africa, Cuba, Haiti, and other Central American countries set off early morning by foot from Tapachula to the southern border of the United States. (AP Photo/Isabel Mateos)

On both the northern and southern international borders of Mexico a human rights disaster is evolving in large part due to the Trump administration’s war on asylum seekers from Central America. On the northern border with the United States, the U.S. “migrant protection protocols” are forcing tens of thousands of people to wait in Mexico border towns for a chance to make asylum claims before a U.S. immigration judge. On the southern border with Guatemala, migrants are being denied the ability to cross through Mexico. New regulations regarding the issuance of travel documents have particularly impacted migrants from Africa and Haiti. Between the two borders, the journey remains deadly – as enforcement measures push migrants even further into the shadowy world of coyotes and gangs in order to get across the country.

Below we highlight a few stories from the last week that make clear the crisis.

Remain in Mexico is a policy designed to fail

A year ago Trump lost his mind over a caravan of refugees making their way to the U.S. border with Mexico, many hoping to seek asylum in the U.S. Since then, his administration has sought every mechanism it can to block asylum seekers from even making it to the U.S. border – and for those that do make it, this administration has sought to make it nearly impossible for them to enter the U.S.

One of the mechanisms employed is the Migration Protection Protocol – or the “remain in Mexico” policy.  Under this policy people register their intent to seek asylum with immigration authorities but are forced to wait in Mexico until they can see a judge. There are an estimated 40,000 MPP cases – people waiting in Mexican border towns, many under threat of criminal gangs and all living with a general insecurity as they face an unknown future. The Latin America Working Group has extensive background materials on the policy and its impact. 

Over the last month asylum trials have gotten underway. The process is a mockery of justice. Proceedings are held in tents, with immigration judges video conferenced in. The Department of Homeland Security oversees the trials, which is outside of their jurisdiction. This week a group of volunteer attorneys attempting to represent people in these proceedings published their experiences in The Hill, noting that the whole enterprise is designed to fail.

At every step of the way, refugees and the handful of attorneys who represent them are reminded that this “system” is designed to fail. There are no marked entrances to the Brownsville court, which resembles a concentration camp in its design and layout. 

Instead, attorneys must already know where the entrance is and ask to be let in by privately contracted guards who monitor it for DHS. Forms with client signatures are required to gain entry. Attorneys are escorted by guards from the front gate to client meetings, to attend court and even to access the restroom. 

Attorneys are not allowed to bring electronics into the tent complex, which means they cannot access their calendars or legal research. Meanwhile, DHS lawyers maintain access to their technology as they sit off-screen. Only the immigration judge and interpreter are video streamed into the port courtroom. 

In order to even schedule the next hearing, the attorney must request a recess so that they can leave the court complex, go to their car to access their calendar on their phone and go through the security process all over again to get back to their hearing.

The authors conclude:

The harms refugees suffer due to our official U.S. government policy of rendering them homeless includes deaths by drowning in the Rio Grande (even while bathing), multiple documented instances of kidnappings within minutes or hours of being returned from the U.S. The toll of surviving on the streets of Mexico is amplified by the due process farce refugees face in post courts.

As tempting as it is, we cannot give in to our exhaustion and cynicism: We must hold this administration accountable for the ongoing illegality that is engulfing the border. It may take decades or longer to repair what we have lost under this administration and there is no time to waste. (emphasis added)

Blocking passage on southern border

As Mexico has escalated its crackdown on immigration under pressure from the United States, new regulations are leaving African and Haitian immigrants at the Mexico/Guatemala with no place to go. Central American migrants who are caught up in the expanded dragnet in southern Mexico are typically repatriated quickly – Mexico has departed far more Central Americans than the United States in recent years. People from Africa and the Caribbean are not as easily repatriated. As noted in The Guardian, until recently, migrants from Africa would be issued temporary 21-day visas in order to sort out their status or leave the country. In many cases they gave people time to cross the country to seek entry to the United States. Now, these temporary visas require people to leave from the southern border – effectively denying them the ability to seek asylum in the United States.

Migrants are particularly angered by the perception that they are being coerced into applying for asylum in Mexico – where few feel safe and almost none want to stay. “Mexico is playing games with us,” said a 36-year-old engineer from Eritrea who identified himself as Mr Testahiwet. “This is the way to get to America and we want to go to America. Mexico is the wrong place to ask for asylum.”

This weekend a caravan of hundreds of people attempted to make the journey north anyway, and were halted. From ABC News:

Hundreds of migrants from Africa, the Caribbean and Central America found themselves corralled in a migrant detention facility in southern Mexico on Sunday after a futile attempt to head north as part of a caravan aiming to reach the United States.

The group set out before sunrise Saturday from the town of Tapachula, where many had been marooned for months unsuccessfully trying to get transit visas. They carried heavy backpacks, babies and parcels on their heads.

Just before dusk, after having trudged more than 20 miles north, they were surrounded by hundreds of National Guard agents and police who persuaded the exhausted migrants to board vans back to Tapachula. Children cried, and women complained angrily about waiting months for papers. It was unclear if any would be deported.

For migrants fleeing violence there are fewer and fewer places to go – and too many are trapped waiting.

Migrants from conflict-wracked African countries set their sights on the Americas after doors began to shut in Europe. A typical journey from Africa involves a flight to Brazil, which has been amenable to granting visas, followed by a long and perilous trip north. The worst patch, many African migrants say, is the trek through Panama’s Darien Gap, a dense tropical forest inhabited by venomous snakes and ruthless robbers.

Now, southern Mexico has become a frustrating waystation for thousands of Africans, most of whom would prefer to start anew in the U.S. or Canada because of language and cultural barriers in Mexico.

“These are individuals that have gone through numerous horrors both in their home countries and then on their journey,” said Meyer.

Most of the Haitians arriving at Mexico’s southern border, meanwhile, have lived in South America for several years after some nations granted them protected immigration status. Now such policies are less favorable, propelling the Haitians to seek a new home at a time when their country is mired in an intense political crisis. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Mexico has offered refugees the possibility of obtaining work and residency permits to stay in southern Mexico, far from the U.S. border. But those asylum permits are slow-coming in an overstretched immigration system. Also, southern Mexico is the country’s poorest region, so job opportunities there are scarce.

Mexico has gone along with U.S. immigrant enforcement policy for a long time. Trump, however, has clearly upped the ante for Mexico with the predictable result that conditions for migrants at Mexico’s borders, north and south, are deteriorating rapidly. Mexico is facing two border crises – both of them the result of U.S. policies targeting people seeking asylum. 

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Daily Dispatch 10/15/2019: California eliminates private immigrant jails and other updates.

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Daily Dispatch

October 15, 2019


Today the Dispatch is focusing on a few updates of news items and campaigns we have written about recently.  The first is a big win in California. On Friday we joined a bunch of folks – many of whom have put in years on this campaign – in encouraging our network to pressure California’s governor to sign law AB32, which ends the use of private contractors in immigrant detention in the state beginning on January 1st, and begins the process of phasing out existing contracts. 

The governor signed!

I share an update from California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance’s statewide director, Sandy Valenciano in order give a shout out to some of the groups that did all of the heavy lifting on this campaign.

Dear community! 

I am filled with so much joy in sharing with you all that AB32 has been signed by Governor Newsom thanks to all of your support!🎉

A special thanks to CIYJA’s youth and leadership along with, ILRC, CCIJ, ICIJ, IM4HI, Pangea, Resilience OC, IDP, Freedom for Immigrant, Human Rights Watch, Free SF, CCIRA, SIREN, Bay Resistance, and so many others! 

We owe this victory to Floricel, Raul, Ny, Valeria, Mario, and so many individuals who despite being targeted by the state continue to fight for our collective liberations! 

Please continue supporting us in these next steps as we begin our fight to #FreeThemAllCA For now we celebrate and hold our loved ones closer and continue ensuring each other that a world without cages is possible! 

If you made a call, shared a post or took other action, THANK YOU!!!

Good News/Bad News on Public Charge Rule

Three separate judges issued an injunction Friday against the Trump administration’s new Public Charge rule. Good news first:

Federal judges in three states on Friday temporarily blocked changes to the so-called public charge rule, which would make getting permanent residency more difficult for immigrants deemed likely to seek public assistance.

Abbey Sussell, of the New York Immigration Coalition, said that confusion over the measure already has spurred some immigrant New Yorkers to drop benefits — even ones not specified in the new Department of Homeland Security policy.

“It’s still going to be really complex” to explain to immigrant communities what exactly the court rulings mean, given “a lot of damage that has been done,” Sussell said.

New York Attorney General Letitia James secured an injunction Friday temporarily blocking the federal rule changes, which were to have gone into effect Tuesday. Federal judges in California and Washington issued similar decisions.

The Bad News is that the State Department issued a separate rule that takes effect today, directing consular officers to apply public charge ineligibility more broadly to people seeking visas to come to the United States. 

More worrying for advocates are separate rules from the State Department — published one day before Friday’s injunctions — which, as of Tuesday, will affect some green card and visa applicants who live outside of the U.S.

The State Department rule could hinder applicants abroad who have family petitioning for them in the U.S. — all based on the same 20-point public charge test.

“I think the Department of State thing is really big,” said Jessica Young, an attorney at Make the Road New York, an immigration advocacy group. “And I think that’s not being discussed right now.”

Young noted the State Department rule could affect up to 13 million people.

So, good news, the public charge definition Trump was pushing is blocked for now regarding people already in the United States seeking permanent residency. However, the new definition currently still applies to people trying to get here – with the same discriminatory impact against people who have less economic means.

Less happy news…ICE is still trying to deport a U.S. Citizen

In July the story broke about a U.S. citizen, 18 years old Francisco Erwin Galicia, who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for three weeks, despite having a U.S. birth certificate clearly showing him to be a citizen. The issue was that he also had been issued birth record from Mexico (issued three years after his birth in the U.S.). His mother had sought this so that he could attend public school in Mexico where they had relocated after Francisco’s parents separated. This birth record was later used to secure a visitors visa to the United States – and this raised a red flag for ICE. Whatever one thinks of the decisions made by the mother (and before passing judgement know that her situation is something faced by thousands of Mexican nationals who move back to Mexico with U.S. citizen children), these were not decisions made by Francisco, who was three years old at the time, and is a U.S. born citizen. 

Nevertheless, ICE still has Francisco in removal proceedings, and earlier this month issued him a notice to appear before an immigration judge in 2020. From Dallas Morning News

Two immigration attorneys specializing in deportation defense told The News that based on the fact that Galicia received this most recent notice, he remains in deportation proceedings until a judge cancels the proceedings or ICE terminates the case based on prosecutorial discretion.

Prosecutors for ICE, the agency charged with removing unauthorized immigrants from the U.S., may believe that they have enough evidence to continue pursuing Galicia’s case, said Sui Chung, an immigration attorney who focuses on removal defense and serves as chair of the national ICE committee with the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

“It is ICE’s burden to prove that he is deportable, but if you as his attorney want to kill the case, then you have to show evidence to question why the case is still moving forward,” Chung said.

Chung added that the visitors visa that was issued to Galicia was sufficient enough proof for Border Patrol to hold him for a few hours. But the 23 days he spent in detention seemed like an excess and the current removal proceedings should probably have already been stopped, she said.

So why haven’t they? U.S. citizens end up in removal proceedings at an alarming rate already. It is just one factor evidencing the broken system run by ICE, which prioritizes removals above all else. (“We are in the removal business,” as an ICE officer recently said in relation to a different case). #AbolishICE 

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Daily Dispatch 10/11/2019: Communities not cages

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Daily Dispatch

October 11, 2019


California’s legislature has passed a law that would end the use of private prison companies in the state.  If Governor Newson signs the law, California would join Illinois in eliminating for profit companies from detaining immigrants. This would be a huge victory! But we need the governor to sign the bill. Everyone can chime in on Twitter and social media. If you live in California, make a call too. If you don’t, forward this to someone who does – we all know someone in California, right? 

Below is an action alert from California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance:

California Governor Gavin Newsom only has a few days left to sign AB32, a bill which would shut down private immigrant jails in California.

On the heels of HB2040 in Illinois, California’s AB32, builds momentum towards dismantling the profit motives that are deeply intertwined with mass incarceration and immigration detention. The groundbreaking legislation will ban the use of private immigrant jails in California starting in the New Year, eventually entirely phasing out their use in the state. 

What’s next? The bill is awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature to go into effect.

Take action: Call and tweet at the governor to ensure he signs asap!

    • Tweet at Governor Newsom to sign AB32 and support the liberation of  immigrants in private detention using @gavinnewsom, @cagovernor, #SignAB32, #CommunityNotCages
    • Share Raul’s story highlighting the need for alternatives to incarceration!
    • Make a call to (916) 445-2841
    • Script: “Hello, my name is ____. I am calling to urge Governor Newsom to sign AB32. California needs to take a bold stance AGAINST abusive, for-profit companies that target people of color and immigrant communities.” 
    • More info: Follow CIYJA and ICIJ on Facebook and Instagram. 

A view of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. The detention center is privately-run by the GEO Group on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Trying to shut down the Northwest Processing Center (And GEO Group) in Tacoma, WA

Activists in Tacoma, Washington are trying to get the Tacoma City Council to close the Northwest Processing Center run by GEO Group, one of the largest private prison contractors in the country. The campaign in Tacoma is trying to get the council to revoke GEO Group’s license to operate in Tacoma; the City Council thus far is claiming there is little they can do. From Crosscut in Washington,

Unlike other cities with detention facilities, Tacoma does not have a contract with ICE or GEO Group, Blocker said. The city council, he said, never provided authority to open the facility or voted in favor of it. One council member, Blocker said, wrote a letter in support of the facility. Other than that, the city simply provides a business license. 

Loretta Cool, spokesperson for the Tacoma Police Department, said approximately 300 calls to 911 have come from the facility from 2018 to date. Most calls are for medical help. Police have responded to about 25 assaults, including sexual assaults, as well as several suicide attempts, Cool said.

In 2017, lawyers for GEO Group responded to a letter from Tacoma’s previous mayor — Marilyn Strickland — assuring her and other city officials that the company “will not engage in any activities that constitute violations of any local, state and federal laws.”

But Anita Gallagher, assistant to the city manager, concedes the facility should be inspected more regularly and that city officials have little knowledge of its day-to-day operations.   

“We don’t even have visibility in that facility aside from the structured tours,” Gallagher said. 

At the state level, legislation was introduced to ban private contractors from Washington State, but it failed in the last legislative session (it was never voted on – never moved from committee). A new version will almost certainly be introduced. In the meantime, pressure continues on the Council – and hey -they should at least inspect the place, right? Unannounced.

The Council has blocked efforts by GEO Group to expand the facility – GEO sued, claiming the facility is an “essential public facility” and the city could not block its expansion. Courts have sided with the city thus far, but GEO is expected to appeal. 

As far as pulling the license goes, as one city council member put it, GEO Group’s budget is probably larger than the City of Tacoma’s. So far, the council doesn’t seem willing to take on that fight – but people are still pushing.

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Daily Dispatch 10/10/2019: Creating more refugees in Syria

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Daily Dispatch

October 10, 2019

Since 2011, the world has watched, and major players have participated in, the disintegration of Syria. The results of the war in Syria are the results of war everywhere – death, massive destruction of infrastructure and forced migration. The war in Syria has created 12.7 million displaced people – more than half the pre-war population of the country. 6.6 million of these people have left Syria and are considered refugees; 3.6 million of these refugees live in Turkey. Most of the rest are in Lebanon and Jordan. Smaller communities live in Egypt and Iraq. Relatively few have made it to Europe and only a tiny number have been allowed into the United States. Only 10% of the refugees from Syria are in camps – the largest camps, collectively holding almost half of these are in Jordan – the rest are living in shelters, or are trying to eke out a living in urban areas like Ankara. In Jordan the poverty rate among Syrian refugees is 93%.

Of Syrian refugees resettled to Europe as of 2017, most are in Germany (530,000). For the rest of Europe, only Sweden (110,000) and Austria (50,000) have received significant numbers of refugees. Only 33,000 refugees have been resettled in the United States – almost none since 2017.

Now Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan has invaded Syria to create a “safe zone” in the northern, predominantly Kurdish region of Syria. Turkey already controls territory in Syria (see map above). In addition to driving a wedge between Kurdish communities in Turkey and Syria, Erdogan plans to relocate 1 million Syrian refugees into this zone. In essence Erdogan is planning to use 1 million refugees as a human barrier between Syria and Turkey. For this he definitely wins the fascist of the week award. 

Of course the only reason people in the United States are paying attention at all is because the runner-up, Donald Trump, pulled U.S. troops out of the area this weekend, essentially giving Erdogan the greenlight to invade. Trump was criticized broadly for this move – including from Republican leaders like Graham and McConnell, who can otherwise be counted on to shine Trump’s sh*tty policies in to red-state shine-ola. Withdrawing from a war zone, however, was one crappy move too far. In response to this rare demonstration of GOP backbone, Trump threatened to destroy Turkey’s economy if the invasion “went too far.” Only to backtrack again to say, this is not our fight, we need to stay out of the way. After all the Kurds “didn’t help us with Normandy,” (yes, he really said this). As a result of his discursive barf-fest, Trump will be able to point to at least one Tweet or soundbite suggesting he was on the right side of history no matter how all of this turns out.

Meanwhile, we return to the plight of 3.6 million refugees in Turkey – 1 million of whom may very soon be forced to populate this safe zone. That is, unless Europe continues to criticize Erdogan’s occupation of northern Syria. In this scenario, Erdogan said today he would send them all to Europe. From Reuters:

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday Ankara will send the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to Europe if European countries label the country’s military incursion in Syria as an occupation.

“We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way,” Erdogan said in speech to lawmakers from his AK Party.

Turkey has played this blackmail game before. Back in 2015 when refugees from Syria and other conflict zones in the Middle East and Central Asia were making news as they made their way into Europe, Turkey struck a deal with the European Union to allow asylum seekers landing in Greece to be resettled in Turkey. It is a deal similar in tone to deals struck between the U.S. and Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in recent months. Turkey also received 3 billion euros from EU governments and received another 3 billion euros from the European Commission to improve the humanitarian situation of refugees in Turkey. What did this mean for refugees in Turkey and those returned?

The – very – few displaced people in Turkey who are eligible for resettlement and the slow pace of transfers means that, for the vast majority of refugees in Turkey, the deal does little but hamper their options for forward movement.

Some 3.7 million refugees are struggling in Turkey including more than 80% of Syrians, who live below the poverty line. Turkey’s detention infrastructure is growing, and asylum seekers are facing long delays – of several months – in their applications for international protection.

By September 2017, only 5 percent of non-Syrians returned from Greece were able to apply for asylum in Turkey – and just two of them were granted refugee status. By January 2019, more than two-thirds of non-Syrians returned from Greece were deported to their countries of origin, which included fragile states and countries in conflict. One of the biggest receivers of returnees has been Afghanistan, where 343,341 people have been displaced internally due to conflict over the last 12 months.

The truth is the same in 2019 as it was three years ago when the deal was struck: Turkey is not a safe country for refugees, and cannot assure the basic rights of those who are within its territory.

More recently, Turkey has begun expelling Syrian refugees in significant numbers. From Foreign Policy in August of this year:

Once an outspoken activist against the former al Qaeda-affiliated group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Hilal now fears he will face retaliation from the militant group since his deportation to a Turkish-controlled area in northern Syria. He condemned the group for changing “the path of the revolution from aiming for a secular democratic state to an Islamic caliphate.”

Until recently, Hisham Moustafa Steif al-Mohammed worked in a garment factory in Istanbul and lived there with his wife and three children, where he was the only breadwinner. The Turkish police detained the 25-year-old one morning in late May while on his way to work because his kimlik was from another state in Turkey. A few weeks later, on June 15, he found himself on the Bab al-Hawa border crossing station heading to Idlib.

Turkish government officials claim that they are only deporting criminals and people who do not have kimlik papers. Hilal and Mohammed were neither. Hilal says he was threatened, harassed, and beaten after being rounded up alongside other Syrian men, all of them under 35 years old, on a bus in Izmir. He also said he was forced to sign deportation papers after being detained arbitrarily for a week. Hilal is now in an area controlled by Turkish-backed opposition forces in northern Syria, where he feels extremely unsafe. “I am not safe here, even in Turkish-controlled areas, and I can’t leave this house out of fear of al-Nusra and other groups,” Hilal said. 

Erdogan has been working to create this “safe zone” for a while, supporting Turkish backed opposition groups in Syria for a long time. None of this is thus a surprise (or should be). However, the full scale invasion of Turkish forces will obviously escalate things quickly. And, of course, the invasion of Syria is, predictably, creating more refugees already. 

At least 23 fighters with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and eight civilians, two them SDF administrators, have been killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The SDF has not given a casualty toll, while six fighters with Turkey-backed rebel groups have also been killed.

More than 60,000 people have fled since the offensive began, the Observatory added. The towns of Ras al-Ain and Darbasiya, some 60 km to the east, have been largely deserted as a result of the attack.

So, Erdogan is using the refugee crisis as a political foil to achieve long sought objectives concerning disarmament (if not outright destruction) of Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Trump doesn’t think this is a good idea, but made it all possible (If you can prove Trump can find Syria on an unmarked map of the world, I will give you $100). European leaders are lining up to critique, but it is not clear what they will actually do beyond wringing their hands in front of BBC’s cameras. European leadership has been wholly absent in Syria. And in dealing with refugees, the EU has mostly offshored its obligations and created barriers to entry from Libya to Turkey (much as the U.S. is doing with Mexico). Russia is trying to get Syria and Turkey to the table to talk. They’ve been trying this for a long time, but one suspects mostly to create division in NATO, not out of any concern for the Kurds – whom they’ve also bombed. Netanyahu actually raised human rights concerns yesterday, which, yeah, should be a concern, but coming from him is just verbal graffiti mocking the very concept of human rights.

And so here we are again, on the brink of a regional, if not global war, because of the conflict in Syria. The United Nations Security Council will meet today – to do what exactly is hard to say. Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen are pressing for sanctions against Turkey in the U.S. Senate (war makes strange bedfellows). None of this will make much difference to the 12.6 million already displaced by the war, and any actions will come too late to help the tens of thousands who will become newly displaced in the coming weeks.

On World Refugee Day I wrote a somewhat exasperated post titled, “Where the F*ck are People Supposed to Go.” I still don’t know.

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Daily Dispatch 10/9/2019: The removal business

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Daily Dispatch

October 9, 2019


“In my opinion, it makes sense for us to arrest aliens with final removal orders as they represent the end of the line in the removal process,” wrote Andrew Graham, a Boston-based ICE officer. “They are typically the easiest to remove, they have the shortest average length of stay, and at the end of the day we are in the removal business and it’s our job to locate and arrest them.”

Graham was commenting on one of the latest ways that ICE locates, detains and removes people who are unauthorized: marriage interviews.

Seriously.

So, USCIS has a process for people whose presence in this country is unauthorized who wish to have their status authorized if they have become married while here. The process requires them to, in part, demonstrate that their marriage is legitimate. An interesting concept in and of itself – but not the point of this post. As to the process, from NBC News:

Federal regulations allow U.S. citizens…to try to legalize the status of spouses…who [have] been living in the country illegally. Thousands of families are doing it: Records show the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved 23,253 provisional unlawful presence waivers, the final documents spouses, children or parents of citizens need before leaving the country and applying to rejoin their families legally.

But the American Civil Liberties Union says a growing number of officers have “cruelly twisted” the rules by detaining immigrant spouses following marriage interviews. The ACLU is pursuing a similar complaint in Massachusetts and says dozens of detentions also have happened at field offices in New York, Virginia, Florida, Illinois and California.

A quick note – from a conversation with a friend who has been through this process – this brief synopsis (“thousands of families are doing it…”) does not convey the difficulty of the process, or the expense in lawyers fees and application fees (over $10,000 in this case). That said, successfully navigating these procedures is important for families to have security and to remain united. Prior to the Obama era rule permitting the waiver, immigrant spouses had to leave the country and then wait 3 to 10 years before trying to come back in (based on 1996 Clinton era legislation).

So, what is going on now? Again from NBC News:

Obama-era regulations provide for this [waiver], even for people with deportation orders. The months-long process typically requires couples to demonstrate the legitimacy of their marriage as part of the first step. If the couples pass the interview and earn other approvals, immigrant spouses eventually must travel abroad for a visa interview at a U.S. consulate. Only if they receive a visa can they return to the U.S. legally.

It’s unclear how many individuals have successfully become permanent U.S. residents through the process. It facilitates a proper record for families with mixed citizenship, and it’s meant “to avoid the grievous consequences of forcing a spouse or parent to leave” the U.S. for years while trying to build a lawful immigration case from their home countries, the ACLU says.

Now, the plaintiffs say, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is unlawfully using the process as bait. ACLU of Maryland attorney Nick Steiner said it began in 2017 and seems to happen randomly nationwide.

This practice has become the target of a class action law suit – and there is some hope for restitution:

The Maryland case is assigned to U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel, who already reversed the deportation of a Chinese man detained after a successful marriage interview in Baltimore. Ruling just before Wanrong Lin landed in Shanghai last November, Hazel said the government can’t use the process “as a honeypot to trap undocumented immigrants who seek to take advantage of its protections.”

New platform encourages/helps ICE officers to leave their job

So, if you are tired of being in the “removal” business, Never Again Action can help you get a new job. The organization is organized by a Jewish social justice group, and the release timed to correspond to Yom Kippur. From Newsweek :

The Never Again Action group’s Atlanta branch launched the website, saying it wanted to put out the call for a “mass exodus and atonement” for ICE workers “as we approach Yom Kippur.”

With the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year in Judaism, taking place on Tuesday, the group said it was the perfect time for ICE workers to “quit your jobs.”

The organization also appears to be making good on its word to help agents do just that, setting up a career support website that will match ICE workers with a “qualified career adviser.”

The site has just launched, and it is not clear how many ICE workers have utilized the services so far. This is an interesting idea, one that offers a path of resistance while also humanizing the people working for ICE:

“We know it’s easy for protesters to chant ‘quit your job,’ but that it’s a lot easier said than done,” the website states. “We know you have bills to pay, and might have family members relying on your salary or health benefits. That’s why we’re providing this free and confidential service: to help you find a new and better job, so you can quit your ICE job as quickly as possible.”

ICE leadership, as you might imagine, is not impressed. Clearly missing the point, ICE Acting Press Secretary Bryan Cox said, “The men and women of ICE are public servants who faithfully execute federal law as passed by Congress….Demonizing career law enforcement officials with lies and misinformation is disgraceful.”

Cox also seems to have missed the past two and half years of the current executive authorities circumventing the law “as passed by Congress” to make the removal business even more profitable.

In any event, if you know anyone working for ICE – let them know there is help out there if they want to change jobs.

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Daily Dispatch 10/8/2019: Throw away people

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Daily Dispatch

October 8, 2019

Protest against GEO Group 
Photo: Richard Graulich/ZUMA Press/Newscom

One of the themes we write about in the Daily Dispatch quite a bit is the relationship between poor conditions in prisons and detention facilities, and the process of privatization which has turned incarceration into a profitable enterprise in this country. It is not difficult to see that the market forces that ensure adequate delivery of service and price controls in society more generally do not operate in prisons. The people who are on the receiving end of prison services – prisoners and detainees – have no say at all in the companies that are supposed to provide the meals, health services, mental health support, and other services that provide the context in which they are living this portion of their lives. The people paying for the services, state department of corrections, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement are only doing what is legislatively required, and they want it done as cheaply as possible. The companies that receive the contracts are simply doing what the contract requires – again spending as little as possible on delivery of service. The revolving door between private companies and state agencies overseeing them is a big door – and the predictable impact is that there is little meaningful oversight over these companies. Only lawsuits and investigative reports lead to changing practices.

One of the consequences of the privatization of mental health services in state and federal prisons is a serious decline in the quality of care – even as state agencies are paying private companies more than it would cost the state to provide the same service. One measure of this decline in care is an increase in suicides in states that have turned their prison mental health care services over to private companies. 

Reporter Lisa Armstrong, working with Type Investigations, CBSN and with support from a variety of funders, has put together a short documentary on the perils of privatizing mental health services which you can watch below. The documentary begins with the story of Miriam Abdullah, a young woman from Iraq who was incarcerated at age 15. She had well documented mental health concerns and yet received inadequate care, being forced in and out of isolation. She killed herself a few weeks before her 18th birthday. The company with the contract to provide care in Perryville Prison in Arizona where she was being held is Corizon – just one of three companies that dominate this “market.”

In recent weeks we have also profiled similar patterns of denial of service, inadequate care when provided, and an overuse of solitary confinement in detention facilities. For example, the Quixote Center joined with dozens of other human rights organizations in demanding the state delegation from Georgia investigate conditions at Stewart Detention facility. A call that took on added urgency following the release of details of a suicide in the facility last year. From the letter:

The misuse of solitary confinement is alarming because of the detrimental impact that solitary confinement has already had on existing mental health concerns of immigrants at Stewart. Two immigrants with a history of mental health concerns have died of suicide after being placed in solitary confinement for over 15 days—a time period that the United Nations would consider torture. Jeancarlo Jiménez-Joseph, a 27-year-old immigrant with schizophrenia detained at Stewart died of suicide on May 15, 2017 by hanging himself after 19 days in solitary confinement. Almost a year later in July 2018, Efrain Romero De la Rosa, a 40-year-old immigrant with bipolar disorder detained at Stewart, died of suicide after 21 days in solitary confinement. These tragedies point to the pattern of neglect of the mental health of immigrants at Stewart and the expedient use of solitary confinement as a means for Stewart to disregard the humanity of detained immigrants and their need for mental health care.

Stewart is run by one of the big two private prison companies – CoreCivic.

In writing about Romero’s case for the intercept, Jose Olivares wove the personal story of Efrain Romero de la Rosa together with systemic issues that shape conditions at Stewart and elsewhere in the landscape of the U.S.’s ever evolving incarceration nightmare. We wrote about Olivares’ research in the Daily Dispatch in September here. From the article:

Romero’s case stands as a tragic exemplar of an immigration detention system gone off the rails. Solitary confinement is frequently used by corrections staff as a means to punish detainees; a Bangladeshi man told The Intercept in 2018 that guards at the CoreCivic-run Stewart Detention Center — the same facility where Romero was held — sent him to solitary confinement because of a dispute over $8 for prison labor.

The use of solitary confinement in immigration detention is growing and has, in tandem, become a political issue. An investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Intercept, which included testimony from a whistleblower, found that the use of solitary was a go-to practice to discipline detainees and deal with troubled cases, rather than the last resort prescribed by detention standards. After the release of the investigation, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., condemned the use of solitary and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., called for congressional hearings on the practice.

Many of the problems we see in immigration incarceration result from the fact that the methods employed are transferred from our mass incarceration industry. It is not as though health care provision and mental health services were great under state management in prisons. But all incentive to do it well has been gutted by privatization. And underlying all of this is that we treat people in prison as throw away people. Even though 95% of the people in prison will come out at some point, as a society we have decided they are not worth caring for. Our prison system incentivizes poor living conditions – and the trauma inflicted as a result will hurt us all in the long run.

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Daily Dispatch 10/7/2019: Reality takes another beating

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October 7, 2019


The Trump administration continues to look for ways to restrict authorized immigration to the United States. The latest effort is a new rule, issued in a late-night proclamation, that denies visas to people seeking to relocate to the United States if they cannot prove they will be able to acquire health insurance within a month of arrival – or separately show they can afford any “foreseeable health care costs” out of pocket. From CBS News:

“The administration is on-the-record wanting to cut legal immigration, and particularly wanting to cut legal immigration of lower-skilled, lower-paid immigrants who are probably less likely to have health insurance coverage,” said Randy Capps, director of U.S. programs research at the nonpartisan think tank the Migration Policy Institute.

Earlier in the summer, the administration rolled out the final version of a “public charge” regulation, which would make it easier for the government to deny green cards and temporary visas for legal immigrants who use public benefits like food stamps and government-subsidized housing.  

Capps told CBS News that Friday’s proclamation will go “much further” than the public charge rule in terms of health-based restrictions on people seeking to immigrate to the U.S. The administration is hoping to accomplish this, he added, by rolling out an abrupt executive order that will not be subject to feedback prior to implementation — unlike the public charge rule, which is expected to take effect later this month.  

The order itself is framed as denying visas to those who will “financially burden the healthcare system.” The preamble claims that uninsured individuals rely on more expensive emergency health care at hospitals, and that hospitals are often not reimbursed for those costs. From the proclamation:

These costs amount to approximately $7 million on average for each hospital in the United States, and can drive hospitals into insolvency.  Beyond uncompensated care costs, the uninsured strain Federal and State government budgets through their reliance on publicly funded programs, which ultimately are financed by taxpayers.

The order then goes on to claim that immigrants are three times more likely to be uninsured – a claim with no reference. The implication being they are three times more likely to access emergency services and be an extra burden on “U.S. taxpayers.” Is this true?

No. Last year the International Journal of Health Services published an article summarizing 188 peer-reviewed articles published over an 18 year period. The findings were quite the opposite of what is claimed here. Authorized immigrants cost the U.S. healthcare system LESS than U.S. born citizens. And, though Trump’s order focused on authorized immigration, it is also worth noting that unauthorized immigrants use even less resources (adjusting for population). From the study:

While annual U.S. medical spending in 2016 was a staggering $3.3 trillion, immigrants accounted for less than 10% of the overall spending – and recent immigrants were responsible for only 1% of total spending. Given these figures, it is unlikely that restrictions on immigration into the United States would result in a meaningful decrease in health care spending. To the contrary, restricting immigration would financially destabilize some parts of the health care economy, as suggested by Zallman and colleagues, who found that immigrants contributed $14 billion more to the Medicare trust fund than they withdrew.

Does the truth matter? That is a whole other question. Politics, as they say, is about perception. And the perception that immigrants – even authorized immigrants – place an inordinate burden on social services is widespread. It is not true – by almost every measure, from crime to healthcare, to access of “welfare” – immigrants cost “the system” less than U.S. born citizens. Nevertheless, people believe the opposite to be true, and that belief is what Trump is playing to. By doing so, he is placing himself in the position of being the one who “finally did something about it.” It doesn’t matter that the “it” is a myth. Hell, Trump might even believe this – I have a hard time imagining him reading peer reviewed health science journals in his free time. But “belief” is not the place one should make policy from. Evidence is.

Setting all that aside – even if Trump is right –  the reality is that our healthcare system is a mess already. The problems identified in this order are not created by immigrants. The problems are endemic to the system itself – health care costs are too high, and even post Affordable Healthcare Act many people are still left out of the system. This order only makes sense if you believe that it is the uninsured who drive up the costs of a healthcare system they are too poor to participate in. And that is absurd. 

Trump won his election with a minority of the vote by pitching warmed over southern strategy style race-baiting to folks who are nervous about the future. He is governing the same way. Sadly, this means that a simple fact check won’t settle anything. If it did, Trump would have never won a single primary. 

I leave you with this: Immigrants actually subsidize U.S. born citizen’s healthcare costs. From Modern Healthcare in relation to the same study:

Study co-author Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, an associate professor of psychiatry in Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics, said the lower expenditures among insured immigrants seems to indicate that that population makes up a low-risk insurance pool that helps subsidize more frequent healthcare users.

“On average immigrants tend to be younger and healthier than native-born Americans and therefore when they do have health insurance they’re contributing more into insurance pools than they’re taking out,” Boyd said.

Boyd lamented that false preconceptions have informed many substantial policies. (emphasis added).

Trump just added another misinformed policy to the list….

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Daily Dispatch 10/4/2019: Home is Here and D.C. Action

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Daily Dispatch

October 4, 2019


Home is Here Video

There is a video embedded into this article. To view it, click the article link.

Home is Here Campaign Launch

We want to use the Dispatch today to lift up the launch of the Home is Here campaign because of the importance of this issue to so many people (the Quixote Center is not a member of the coalition). Home is Here has been organized to educate and do advocacy in support of DACA’s extension leading up to the November 12, 2019 Supreme Court hearing that will likely determine the future of 700,000 people currently here under DACA. The campaign launched on October 2. Below is information abridged from a press release from coalition member, the National Immigration Law Center, which outlines the campaign and provides a host of valuable resources about DACA.

WASHINGTON, DC — Ahead of the November 12, 2019, U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in three consolidated cases regarding President Trump’s unlawful termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, DACA recipients and a broad coalition of immigrants’ rights organizations today launched the Home Is Here<http://homeishere.us/> campaign to highlight what is at stake for 700,000 DACA recipients, their families (including 256,000 U.S. citizen children), our communities, the economy, and our country if the Court overturns the lower court rulings currently allowing DACA renewals to continue.

“For the past seven years, DACA has been an incredibly successful program, providing temporary protection from deportation and peace of mind to nearly 800,000 young people who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives. These Dreamers are part of the fabric of our country, but their futures are once again hanging by a thread as DACA heads to the Supreme Court,” said Karen Tumlin, founder and director of the Justice Action Center, manager of the Home Is Here campaign, and part of the counsel team for McAleenan v. Batalla Vidal. “Ending DACA was both immoral and unlawful, as multiple courts across the country have found. We will continue to fight for DACA recipients and their families whose home is here, in the United States.”

Organizations participating in the campaign include CASA, the Center for American Progress, Community Change/FIRM, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), FWD.us, Justice Action Center, Make the Road New York, NAKASEC, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and United We Dream (UWD).

The Home Is Here campaign tells the stories of and commits to protect DACA recipients who arrived in the United States as children and their families. Over the past seven years, more than 700,000 immigrant youth have been able to work, attend school, better support their families, and make even greater contributions to our communities and our country because of the temporary protection from deportation granted by the DACA program. If DACA ends, DACA recipients would be added to the list of those targeted in the deportation dragnet and threatened with deportation to a country that they may not remember and where they may not even speak the language, sparking a new wave of family separation crises nationwide. Their homes are here in the United States.

The campaign will underscore why DACA is legal, constitutional, and highly successful through events across the country over the next six weeks, including DACA renewal clinics and other efforts to encourage DACA recipients to renew their protections as soon as possible, digital storytelling, paid advertising, organizing, and rallies at the Supreme Court and in multiple cities across the country on November 12.

On November 12, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in McAleenan v. Batalla Vidal, Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, and Trump v. NAACP. The lower courts in each of these cases ruled that the Trump administration’s September 2017 termination of the DACA program is unlawful. Nationwide injunctions and other court orders in place have allowed DACA renewals to continue since early 2018; however, no new first-time applications have been considered or granted since the attempted termination. A decision from the Supreme Court is expected between January and June 2020.

The deputy solicitor general of California, Michael Mongan, and noted Supreme Court advocate Ted Olson, solicitor general of the United States under the George W. Bush Administration, will argue on behalf of a number of individual DACA recipients and the other plaintiffs in these cases, including the regents of the University of California, Microsoft, Princeton University, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Current DACA recipients are encouraged to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to consider their renewal options. More information is available at www.RenewMyDACA.com. Americans can also contribute to a DACA recipient in need of the $495 renewal fee by visiting www.GoFundMe.com/DACA.

KEY DACA FACTS

– DACA recipients, on average, arrived in the United States at the age of 7 and have lived here for 20 years. More than a third arrived before age 5. They are our classmates, our coworkers, and our friends. Most know no other country as home.

– DACA recipients are parents to nearly 256,000 U.S. citizen children, and nearly every DACA recipient is part of a mixed–immigration status family. Ending DACA would rip apart hundreds of thousands of families.

– DACA recipients contribute significant federal, state, and local tax revenues that help provide important benefits to millions of Americans:

Additional DACA Resources

For more information, visit the Home Is Here website, HomeIsHere.us.

In D.C.? Take Action this Week. From Sanctuary DMV

The DC Council will introduce a bill to end all cooperation between D.C. and ICE. The Council was given notice of the emergency bill today and will vote on it on Tuesday, October 8. If passed, it will take effect for 90 days while the D.C. Council works to pass a permanent version of the bill.

We need your solidarity to make this a reality. Please contact DC Council members to vote for the bill and canvass this weekend to gather community support.

The Sanctuary Values Emergency Amendment Act of 2019 would:

  • Ban D.C. from notifying ICE when someone is being released;
  • Ban D.C. from allowing ICE agents inside its jails and facilities;
  • Ban D.C. from holding someone in its custody for ICE to pick up;
  • Ban D.C. from sharing information about an individual with ICE; and
  • Apply to all D.C. agencies, including the DC Jail and MPD.

In August, Washington City Paper revealed that the D.C. jail has been helping ICE detain D.C. residents by notifying ICE when immigrants are being released so ICE can come and detain them – and by giving ICE agents special access inside the jail. Since 2016, the D.C. jail has transferred 43 of our neighbors to ICE and made it possible for ICE to detain many others directly outside the jail. We have also seen other D.C. officials such as MPD officers help ICE tear immigrants away from our communities.

The Sanctuary Values Act would ban all of these practices so that D.C. stops turning over its own residents to immigration authorities.

We are working in coalition with Many Languages One Voice, United We Dream, the Congregation Action Network, Just Futures Law, and other groups to address serious violations of D.C.’s sanctuary status and build a future without cages or deportation.

Join us in the fight by making your voice heard to D.C. councilmembers and reaching out to the community this weekend.

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Daily Dispatch 10/3/2019: Prison companies feel the squeeze of campaigns

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October 3, 2019



Five of the biggest financial corporations in the world can’t stomach funding the private corporations that profit from incarcerating immigrants anymore – and yet, the U.S. government still wants to give those same private corporations lots of your money. From Forbes:

All of the existing banking partners to private prison leader GEO Group have now officially committed to ending ties with the private prison and immigrant detention industry. These banks are JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, SunTrust, BNP Paribas, Fifth Third Bancorp, Barclays, and PNC. 

This exodus comes in the wake of demands by grassroots activists — many under the banner of the #FamiliesBelongTogether coalition — shareholders, policymakers, and investors. Major banks supporting the private prisons behind mass incarceration and immigrant detention have now committed to not renew $2.4B in credit lines and term loans to industry giants GEO Group and CoreCivic. 

This shift represents an estimated shortfall of 87.4% of all future funding to the industry, which depends on these bank credit lines and loans to finance their day to day operations. 

While capitalism functions on debt in general, GEO Group and CoreCivic are particularly vulnerable here. Both companies, which between them control 75 percent of the private prison market, are registered with the Internal Revenue Service as Real Estate Investment Trusts. One of the requirements of REITs is that 90 percent of company income must be delivered to shareholders in dividend payments. This means more value for shareholders and the REIT designation means lower taxes – and bigger profit for the companies. It also means there is less cash on hand for day-to-day operations, and thus, compared to other corporate structures, a greater dependence on regular infusions of money from new borrowing. 

As both GEO Group and CoreCivic operate contracts with the Federal government that guarantee them bed space and thus income, this has not been a challenge until recently. Indeed, from 2009 until 2017, Congress required that a daily minimum average of 34,000 people be held in detention – a requirement that translated into a guarantee of hundreds of millions of dollars to both companies. By the time this minimum was dropped the daily average number of detainees had reached 40,000 – and has skyrocketed since. Outside of the legislative process, minimums are written into individual contracts as well, minimizing risk to the companies. At the end of 2017, for every 100 people in detention, 32 were in a GEO Group managed facility and 21 were in a CoreCivic facility. 

Then came Trump’s war on immigrants. Both companies saw the bottom line benefits to their work in Trump’s campaign rhetoric, and each gave $250,000 to his inaugural committee. Both have been paid back many times over in new contracts. However, as daily news about the horrible conditions that people are detained in (the conditions themselves have been horrible for many years prior to Trump), public pressure against detention has increased. The current media environment combined with savvy campaigners ready to go after the money flow to stop GEO and CoreCivic led to effective calls for banks to cut financial ties with the prison industry. And it is obviously working.

Meanwhile, the Federal government wants to detain even more immigrants, and, for now, this means giving GEO Group and CoreCivic more money. As we write, Trump is requesting an expansion of detention funding for next year to 52,000 beds a night from the current 45,000 (a budget limit this administration blew early in the fiscal year). Indeed, Immigration and Customs Enforcement was holding 55,000 people in August. GEO Group and CoreCivic won’t receive all of this increase – but they will get a healthy chunk of it, as they have already benefited from Trump’s expansion of new facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi over the past year.

How slimy are these companies? Consider the GEO Group. In 2016 a Texas court blocked GEO Group and CoreCivic from registering as child care providers with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Such a designation would have allowed the companies to detain immigrant families with children indefinitely. In response, a GEO Group lobbyist worked with a member of the Texas legislature to introduce a bill to weaken child care licensing requirements. The new bill did not pass, but the effort illustrated the reach of the company’s lobbying efforts at the state level (private prison companies spent a quarter of a million dollars or more lobbying the Texas legislature that session), not to mention the utter lack of moral accountability that guides their business decisions. Outside of a small state-run facility in Pennsylvania, all of the government’s current family detention capacity is in Texas and run by either CoreCivic or the GEO Group. Not long after the Texas decisions, Trump’s administration promoted changes in the Flores Settlement Agreement that would allow the government to license its own facilities. A federal judge just shot that down on Friday.

The irony is that JPMorgan, Barclays and Bank of America, who collectively helped sink the global economy behind fraudulent lending practices in 2008 and suffered not one indictment between them, now find it is not in their interest to be associated with the immoral practices of the private prison industry. The U.S. government, however, is all too happy to stand with these companies – using your money. Indeed, to pay for its overspending on immigrant incarceration the Department of Homeland Security had to raid other accounts from the Coast Guard to FEMA this year. 

On the one hand there is nothing shocking about this. Everyday the U.S. government hands out billions of tax dollars to really horrible companies that do everything from hold children in immigrant detention facilities to build the bombs that were dropped on those kids homes thereby forcing them to become immigrants in the first place. But there is something particular maddening about the dense layers of hypocrisy that buttress the U.S. government’s policy of immigrant detention and mass incarceration more generally. None of it is necessary. The people in ICE detention are not there on criminal charges. They are awaiting determination of their immigration status. If let out of detention, people will show up for their immigrant court cases. Under community supervision, well over 90 percent do. If one steps back and looks at the entire edifice of the criminalization of migration, detention serves no purpose outside of the value it gives to political posturing and private companies’ stock margins.

For now GEO Group and CoreCivic are feeling the pinch. There is legislation before congress that would phase out the use of private companies (the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act) and nearly every Democrat running for president supports ending private prison company involvement in immigrant detention (and by extension, for federal incarceration). For now, however, that legislation is not moving and Trump is still president. With current income streams in place, one broker, at least, expects GEO Group’s stock to significantly rebound from its current low over the next 12 months. If it does, it will only be because our government has a weaker moral compass than Wall Street. Sobering. 

Postscript: On October 1st, the first day of the fiscal year 2020, a man from Cameroon died in Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego after experiencing a brain hemorrhage during a “hypertensive event.” Otay Mesa is operated by CoreCivic.

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)