By Hairo Cortes, Chispa
New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed interest in grilling representatives from the country’s biggest banks about their lending ties to private immigration detention centers. “We’re going to hold oversight hearings to make these banks accountable for investing in and making money off of the detention of immigrants,” she said a community event last week. “Because it’s wrong.”
An article in Bloomberg about such potential hearings noted JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America’s roles in lending to GEO Group and CoreCivic, two of the most prominent private prison corporations around. For many of us who’ve been organizing for migrant justice, and against the immigration enforcement system that has dehumanized immigrants into a commodity served up to for-profit jail companies like the GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), this is one of the moments we’ve been waiting for.
To force big bank executives to answer for their role in propping up the prison-industrial complex would finally turn the spotlight on the real crisis that’s happening at the border and in communities across the country with longstanding immigrant prisons like the Adelanto Detention Center in California’s high desert and the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona.
But while much of the focus on the immigrant prison industry has been placed on the privatized side of things, it’s important for Congress to look at the bigger picture: from the banks and investment firms, to the private prison companies, and finally to the cities and counties that have operated sections of their public jails like for-profit immigrant detention centers to cash in on human suffering.
On the latter point, this would mean forcing county sheriffs, like Orange County’s own Don Barnes, to answer for their departments’ longstanding immigrant detention agreements with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and their financial interests in operating publicly-owned jails like Theo Lacy and the James A. Musick Facility essentially as businesses.
The core problem of immigrant detention is immigrant detention–whether it is child being detained by Border Patrol along the Texas border, a father held in a privately operated jail in the high desert, or an African refugee in a county-owned one across the street from the Outlets at Orange.
All those responsible for allowing this system to expand and thrive at the expense of immigrant communities and the separation of families should have to answer for their actions. For now, let’s hope Ocasio-Cortez gets those hearings soon enough in starting with the big banks.
Deport This! is a partnership between OC Weekly, Chispa and Orange County Immigrant Youth United. The column is a rebuttal of Donald Trump’s racist politics and his OC cheerleaders, who’ll no doubt get triggered every week with news and views by and about the undocumented community.