Posts Tagged ‘CoreCivic’
Daily Dispatch 1/23/2020: Take Action to Block New Detention Contracts in Texas, Gain release of hunger-strikers
January 23, 2020
Here are two simple actions you can take TODAY to confront the Trump administration’s detention machinery:
Block new detention contracts in TX!
Earlier in January we wrote about Immigration and Customs Enforcement looking to extend 10-year long contracts to three facilities in Texas. Today we are sharing a campaign from Texas-based Grassroots Leadership and our partners at the Detention Watch Network. See below:
Since the creation of the first detention center in the US, communities across the county have actively fought to shut down immigration jails that lock away loved ones, neighbors and friends. Immigration jails are inhumane, strip people of their dignity and agency, and must be shut down for good.
Right now, ICE is working to extend contracts for three Texas detention centers that will prolong detention in the state for the next 10 years. The facilities are the T. Don Hutto Residential Center near Austin, the South Texas Detention Complex near San Antonio, and the Houston Processing Center.
DWN member Grassroots Leadership is doing everything they can to make sure we don’t see a continuation of these facilities and the pain that they inflict for the next decade. Last month, more than 45 organizations across Texas delivered a letter to members of Congress urging them to investigate ICE’s attempt to evade procurement law.s. And earlier this week, Texas representatives sent a letter to ICE demanding the immediate suspension of the contracts.
Members of Congress need to hear from you now. Death and ongoing allegations of abuse should be enough of a reason to close down these facilities full stop.
Fill out this form, and Grassroots Leadership will send a postcard on your behalf to your representatives and members of key committees with the power to intervene.
Texas already incarcerates a quarter of all immigrants detained nationwide—we cannot allow for this to become the state’s reality for the next decade and serve as a model for detention expansion nationwide.
Gain release of hunger strikers in LA!
We’ve also been following the case of hunger strikers at LaSalle Detention facility in Jena, Louisiana. The men have passed the 75 day mark – approaching 80 days! Freedom for Immigrants has launched a petition demanding their release you can add your name to here.
Five South Asian men have reached the 75th day of a hunger strike in the GEO Group-operated LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana where they have been subjected to the tortuous procedure of forced-hydration and force-feeding. According to medical professionals, 75 days without adequate nutrition is when vital organs begin to fail.
The growing number of hunger strikes in ICE prisons across the country are no coincidence. It is indicative of complete disbelief in a fair legal process and the lengths ICE is willing to go to indefinitely detain them. Some of these men have been locked up for nearly 2 years. We are deeply concerned that ICE appears willing to let these men die in detention to make an example of them rather than be released to the community, where each man has family or close friends willing to provide housing and support.
In a meeting with California officials to discuss Sanctuary Cities, Trump uttered the following: “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — and we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.”
News outlets tended to cover this in “Trump calls immigrants animals” fashion. I’m a fan of the mainstream media and the Deep State, but as the National Review rightly points out, Trump’s use of the word “animal” was in direct response to a question about MS-13 asked by the Sheriff of Fresno County, where MS-13 gang members have been convicted of murder and gun charges.
Fine, context is important.
But the context doesn’t really make it better. Recently, one of our contributors wrote a piece on MS-13 and the cycle of dehumanization that leads to violence. (I’ll give you a minute to read it before I continue…ready?)
One could argue that the press is in the wrong here because calling Trump out for dehumanizing immigrants (which he does regularly) without specifying which particular group of immigrants he happens to be dehumanizing today actually does his work for him – contributing to the lumping together of undocumented immigrants with the small percentage of those who have committed violent crimes.
In any case, calling a particular group of people “animals” is simply an explicit articulation of his dehumanizing policies on immigration, which have a much more concrete and immediate impact on people’s daily lives. For example:
- Stripping people of TPS and shipping them back to their “shithole countries” (which actually contributes to gang violence, thus increasing the number of people seeking asylum).
- Dehumanizing children by treating that as contraband to be confiscated at the border and storing them in military installations (distorting a law, that, whatever you think of it, was originally intended to protect children from human trafficking – and turning them into mere leverage) and referring to bringing one’s own child across the border as “smuggling.”
- Dehumanizing the youth who get caught up in gang violence – “they’re not people” – by taking a lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key approach to a criminal justice that essentially does throw away the key (storing inmates in solitary confinement for years at a time, for example).
- Doing the same in federal detention centers filled not only with undocumented immigrants who have committed no other crime than existing within the borders of the United States without the right paperwork – but also with asylum seekers who have committed no crimes whatsoever (since it’s not illegal to enter the country if you’re seeking asylum).
- Forcing detainees to work for $1 a day and then requiring them to use that little bit of money to purchase food, linens, and phone calls to family, friends, lawyers – threatening them with criminal prosecution or “the sensory and psychological deprivation of their humanity resulting from solitary confinement” if they refuse (incidentally, this is pretty much the definition of human trafficking, hence SPLC’s lawsuit against CoreCivic).
When corporations become “persons,” there is a financial incentive for treating people like animals and animals like machines. If we can start to think of criminals as “animals,” the next step is to criminalize whomever we perceive as undesirable or inconvenient so that we can hand them over to the private prison industry and store them away like so much clutter. Hence the criminalization of immigration, poverty, compassion, and so on.
Justice must be re-humanized.
Last year people held at at a private immigration detention facility in Aurora, Colorado filed suit against the owner, The GEO Group, claiming that the company required them to work in the facility “Volunteer Work Program” and threatened solitary confinement to those who refused. The GEO Group receives contracts from the federal government to construct, manage, and/or provide other services related to the incarceration of people in federal prisons and immigrant detention facilities. Approximately 70% of migrant detainees are held in private run or owned facilities. Two companies, the GEO Group and CoreCivic, receive the lion’s share of these contracts – in 2015 housing nearly 80% of those detained in private facilities.
Under Federal Law, people held in immigrant detention may work to help maintain the facility and earn a small remuneration. The current rate was set in 1978 at a maximum of $1.00 a day (the Federal minimum wage in 1978 was $2.60 an hour). At the time, the daily average number of migrants held in detention was less than 4,000 people and none were housed in private facilities (CoreCivic – then known as the Corrections Corporation of America – received the first contract for a private detention facility in 1983, the Houston Processing Center). Times have changed, but not the pay rate.
The GEO Corp, CoreCivic and other private companies use detainee labor to keep facilities clean, do maintenance and provide other services. By using detainee labor at the 1978 pay rate, the companies pad their profit margin significantly. GEO Group spokesman Pablo Paez told Daily Beast, “the volunteer work program at immigration facilities as well as the wage rates and standards associated with the program are set by the Federal government.” The company argues, they are not required to pay more – indeed Federal contracts only reimburse work done through the Voluntary Work Program at the $1.00 a day rate; if they pay more they lose money. If they have to bring in cleaning services, paying at least the federal minimum wage, they would lose significantly more. That a maximum daily wage of $1.00, paid to people held behind bars who were threatened into “volunteering,” is basically slave labor is beside the point – shareholders come first.
In the current environment nothing is more surprising than members of Congress defending forced labor in the name of corporate profit (pitched as tax savings). On March 7th of this year, eighteen Republican members of Congress wrote to the offices of the Attorney General and Secretaries of the Department of Labor and Immigrant and Custom Enforcement encouraging them to submit amicus briefs in defense of The GEO Group and other private prison companies. The letter is illuminating concerning the values animating federal immigration enforcement:
It would provide an unnecessary windfall to the detainees, and drain the federal government of limited taxpayer resources, to require contractors to pay these detainees anywhere between 800% – 1500% above what is currently required by law. These costs will simply be passed on to the taxpayers either through a required higher rate of contractual reimbursement or through increased detention costs generally.
It is worth parsing this section. “800%-1,500%” more than current law, means remuneration of $8 to $15 dollars A DAY. One wonders how a company cannot afford such wages, or the Federal government for that matter, to keep a facility clean!?!? Arguing that people in detention – who, it bears repeating, are in most cases simply waiting decisions on their status – would see one dollar an hour as a “windfall,” indeed such a windfall that they would want to stay in detention, is absurd.
If Federal immigrant enforcement measures are draining “limited taxpayer resources,” it is because the Federal government has chosen to adopt draconian measures that are unnecessary, and in some cases illegal, in order to expand detention to the current rate of 41,000 people a night, at a cost of $134 a day per detainee. This detention budget came to $2.6 billion in 2017, a large portion paid out to private companies. Trump wants the capacity expanded to 50,000 a night – a 25% increase. The GEO Group and CoreCivic gave Trump’s inauguration committee $250,000 each. The return on this investment promises to be huge.
In April of 2017, The GEO Group posted in BusinessWire:
GEO expects to design, finance, build, and operate the company-owned Facility [in Conroe, Texas] under a ten-year contract with ICE, inclusive of renewal option periods. The 1,000-bed Facility is scheduled for completion in the fourth quarter of 2018 and is expected to generate approximately $44 million in annualized revenues and returns on investment consistent with GEO’s company-owned facilities.
The press release went on to add: “We are very appreciative of the continued confidence placed in our company by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said George C. Zoley, GEO’s Chairman and CEO.
Very appreciative indeed. Trading in the lives of human beings makes these companies a lot of money. And with members of Congress trying to shield them from having to actually pay some of the people who labor in these facilities, profits are booming.