Immigrant advocates attack banks for financing private prisons
Posted July 25, 2018 6:14 p.m. EDT
JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and other banks have come under fire for helping to finance private prisons used by the federal government as immigrant detention facilities.
Eight people were arrested while protesting outside the New York City home of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon on Wednesday and protesters gathered outside the home of a Wells Fargo board member in New Jersey on Tuesday. Activists including New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon also rallied around the issue at a May Day march in Manhattan.
"Private prison companies and their Wall Street financiers stand to benefit from policies that increase detentions, separate families, and cause irreparable harm to immigrant children," said Ana Mar-a Archila, Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy, in a statement.
A report from the group shows that JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and BlackRock have lent money to two big private prison companies, CoreCivic and GEO Group, and held millions of dollars of their debt as of March 2018.
Four other advocacy groups, all part of the Corporate Backers of Hate campaign, helped write the report, which cites data from Bloomberg.
A spokesperson for JPMorgan declined to comment because the company does not comment on client relationships.
A statement issued by Wells Fargo said that the company "respects the seriousness of our country's ongoing debate about the immigration and criminal justice system, and we encourage people to reach out to elected officials and let them know their feelings."
"However, we do not as a corporation take positions on public policy issues that do not directly affect our company's ability to serve customers and support team members," it said.
A BlackRock spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"These divestment efforts are misguided and based on a deliberate mischaracterization of our role as a long-standing service provider to the government, and totally ignore the fact that we have absolutely no role in setting criminal justice or immigration policies nor have we ever advocated for or against criminal justice or immigration enforcement and detention policies," said Pablo Paez, a spokesman for GEO Group, in an emailed statement.
A spokesperson for CoreCivic also confirmed that it does not advocate for or against legislation or policies.
"CoreCivic does not know the circumstances of individuals when they are placed in a facility, and our responsibility is to care for each person respectfully and humanely while they receive the legal due process that they are entitled to," she said.
Both companies said that they do not house unaccompanied children.
Privately run detention centers have come under scrutiny as the Trump Administration's policies have led to a growing number of immigrant detainees. Washington State's attorney general has sued GEO Group, alleging it violated labor laws by paying immigrant detainees less than $1 a day for their work. GEO Group has refuted the claims.