Tag Archives: immigration detention centers

A Letter In Defense of Immigrants

22 Jun

To Whom it May Concern:

We are writing to you today out of concern and heartache. The atrocities that are occurring at our southern border – atrocities that have been occurring for months now – must stop immediately. As you know, in January of 1945 the Allied Forces liberated Auschwitz, the largest killing center and concentration camp of all those run by the Nazi Party. And here we sit today, in the country that spearheaded the liberation of people who were starved and tortured, families who were torn apart, communities that were decimated and we find that we are not much better. We find that this country that has, since its establishment, claimed to be a safe haven for the worlds most marginalized communities, has turned its back, as we once did on the Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, on morality and decency and is instead using the force of its laws and its enforcers to further disempower those who lack voice, who lack protection and who lack a safe space to simply live. We said never again. And now here we are, as we lose the last of the Holocaust survivors, moving close to repeating the same horrific mistakes that we once stood firmly against.

This is not who we are. This is not who we want to be. This has to end now.

So we are writing to you to ask that you do not stop acting now that the horrific policy of separating children from their parents has ended. We are asking that you stand strong and say no to Trump’s attempt to overturn the Flores decision. We are asking that you stand with the people who are fleeing gang violence, domestic violence, drug wars and oppressive governments. We are asking that you stand with those who come to this country seeking safety and opportunity for themselves and their children. We are asking that you stand with them, not against them. Let us not continue to repeat the mistakes we have made in the past. We had internment camps once before, we cannot go down that road again. Indefinite detention is simply not an option. It runs counter to international Humans Rights norms as well as American values.

Please, stand strong. Just because we have a president who lacks a moral compass, a president who uses the plight of others to drum up his hateful base in an effort to continue eroding our democracy, does not mean that we should follow along blindly. It means we must be stronger than we have ever been before. And the first step is to show the people arriving at our southern border the respect they deserve. They are human beings just like us and should be treated as such. We urge you to do what we put you in office for: to help those who cannot help themselves and to stand in the way of Trump and the GOP’s effort to make the United States a place that is only for the white and the wealthy. This is a country of immigrants and underdogs and that is what makes it so special. We are begging you, please, do the right thing.

Your constituents

Jessy Caron and Rebekah Frank

Private Prison Companies and University Stadiums Should Not Mix

14 Mar

I have to start off by apologizing for my blatant plagiarism in this post.  I just spent the past 45 minutes trying to figure out how to install a plug-in to allow me to provide footnotes but apparently there is a difference between a WordPress site and a WordPress.com site and since I have the later there are no plug-ins available and I therefore am forced to either link articles or steal content.  So, either the articles have been linked, or else the information came straight from a document put out by the Seattle University School of Law and to find it just go to “Voices from Detention.”  So, please nobody sue me.

I know that maybe this is slightly old news, but I am going to weigh in on it anyway, nearly a month after I was initially pissed off by the small article I saw in The Times.  The issue is the decision by Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton, to rename is football field GEO Group Stadium after a private prison corporation.  The CEO of GEO (ha!), Dr. George Zoley is an alumnus of Florida Atlantic University.  He secured the naming rights to this stadium through the largest charitable donation to the university in its history — a $6 million gift paid out over 12 years that the administration says will go to pay for athletic operations, scholarships, the stadium and “academic priorities,” whatever the hell that means.  Mary Jane Saunders, the president of the university, said that because the school doesn’t take any state money to run its athletic program, it is “important for us to use our naming rights to fund the stadium and fund scholarships.” Scholarships are all well and good but how about, um, promoting good ethics and not associating yourself with a corporation that has been investigated by the ACLU for human rights abuses?  Seems like dirty money to me.

I would first like to make the point that not only is GEO a private prison company with facilities all over the world, but it also runs a number of immigration detention centers.  One of those centers, the Northwest Detention Center located in Tacoma, Washington, is a 1,575-bed facility, making it one of the largest detention centers in the country.  By those working in United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), it is known as a “COCO,” which stands for a contractor-owned/contractor-operated facility.  Which means, to me, that much like with companies such as Blackwater, there is limited government oversight and either limited ability, or limited desire, for the state to get involved in the day-to-day running of the operations or hold the companies that own these facilities to reasonable standards of treatment of detainees.  The ACLU, it seems, came to similar conclusions (albeit with less use of assumption and more use of fact).  In May 2007, the ACLU reported to the United Nations Special Rapporteur that the US “failed to promulgate binding minimum standards for the conditions of confinement for detained immigrants” and also that the US “failed to ensure that detention facilities comply with the nonbinding standards that exist.”  The ACLU went further to say that the management of immigration detention is “further marred by ineffective oversight, lack of accountability and lack of transparency.” (Italics mine.)

The running of these facilities as “COCOs” also means that this is a for-profit endeavor, indicating to me that the more detainees the center houses, the more money the center makes, and, furthermore, that if there is no oversight, then mistreatment and poor living conditions can go unchecked by any regulatory agency.  (I would imagine that not having enough beds, for example, would be cheaper than having enough beds and therefore more money!)  In fact, the Seattle University School of Law’s 65-page report, “Voices From Detention,” cited physical and physiological abuse of detainees at the Tacoma center.  One of the most oft-cited examples of poor treatment involved an outbreak of food-poisoning in 2007 that impacted 300 out of the then 1,000 detainees at the site resulting from food not cooked to the necessary temperature to kill bacteria.  Apparently thermometers are too expensive for GEO.

Here’s another thing.  According to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), since 2002 the US has  maintained the highest rate of incarceration in the entire world.  According to a report by the Bureau of Justice cited in the PRB report, the United States incarcerates 500 people per 100,000, a rate about 5 times that of other similar countries.  What is interesting, and perhaps most relevant here, is that the South incarcerates 552 per 100,000, whereas the West has a rate of 418, the Midwest 389, and the Northeast 296.  So here we are, naming a stadium after a prison company in the region with the highest incarceration rates within a country that locks up more people than any other in the world.  Doesn’t that seem a little off to you?  Doesn’t it seem like maybe we should have standards for these sorts of things?

I get it, the sports teams need money to continue paying for equipment, for the salaries of coaches and, hopefully, the scholarships of kids who otherwise might not be able to attend college.  But let’s look at it this way.  Education offers kids opportunity to go out in the world and make something of themselves.  Maybe they come from a family of college graduates, maybe they are the first one.  Maybe they come from a family of law-abiding citizens, or maybe they come from a family that has been affected by the legal system, be it due to their own misdeed or due to the increase in arrests of people for petty drug crimes and the blatant racism inherent in our criminal justice system.  Maybe this is their big break.  So what does it say when we link together our educational system, a system that offers opportunity, with the private-prison system, a system that strips people of opportunity, that forever links their name with some crime, be it serious or not.  What it says, to me, is that we in the United States have absolutely no shame.  When we are willing to take donations from, and worse still name highly visible structures after, an organization like GEO that makes its money off of the unnecessary suffering of individuals, the institutionalization of fear and racism, and obvious injustice associated with the privatization of the prison system, we have hit rock bottom.  Or else I hope we have.

I am appalled not only by GEO and what it does and how it runs its business, but by Mary Jane Saunders and Florida Atlantic University’s decision to take this gift.  Let’s hope that the move by the ACLU to obtain records on this deal goes through and that the organization can prove that Saunders and FAU knew about the activities of GEO before accepting this deal.  If it doesn’t get honored, then this country is even more fucked up than I thought because about 5 minutes spent researching GEO Group’s activities reveal some rather questionable information.  I would imagine FAU spent more than 5 minutes on this task and just relied on the apathy of the population of the United States, and its student body, to just grin and bear it.  Well, let’s hope FAU is wrong.  Let’s not allow the private-prison industry to buy access to our education system, the students of the United States, and of Florida Atlantic University, deserve much better.