By Texans United For Families | 01/25/2012 | Indymedia
A coalition of Austin-based immigrant rights, student and faith organizations joined community and labor groups in thirteen major cities nationwide on Tuesday, January 24th in protests against private detention company investments. Protestors are calling for major investors such as Wells Fargo to divest of their holdings in the for-profit private prison industry. According to SEC filings, Wells Fargo currently holds over 3.5 million shares in private prison corporation GEO Group and as well as shares in Corrections Corporation of America.
Participants gathered outside the Wells Fargo bank on Guadalupe Street across from the Universoty of Texas. Organizers deilvered a letter to Well Fargo from community groups and faith organizations.
“Wells Fargo’s support of the GEO Group is even more troubling in light of GEO’s history in Texas,” said Carmen Llanes of Texans United for Families. GEO’s facilities include prisons, immigration detention centers, and juvenile detention centers where people have suffered from inadequate medical care and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Deaths, riots, and hunger strikes at GEO’s facilities are indicative of GEO’s culture of cruelty and underscore the need to end construction of new GEO facilities.
“For-profit prison companies, which rely on billions of tax dollars as their primary source of revenue, regularly lobby federal and state governments to ensure their interests are met,” said Bob Libal of Grassroots Leadership. “Corporations like GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America benefit from a cruel detention and deportation policy that has affected many members of our community.” Recent reports by the Houston Chronicle and PBS showed that rape and sexual abuse of detainees is rampant across the increasingly privatized federal immigrant detention system.
Wells Fargo, a recipient of billions of bailout dollars, is a major contributor to politicians who have championed the increased incarceration of immigrants. Wells Fargo has also played a key role supporting GEO business ventures.
Peter Cervantes-Gautschi of Enlace, a national coalition coordinating the protests, stated “The United Methodist Church divested its entire holdings from CCA and GEO; these investors should follow the UMC’s responsible investment example. It is immoral to make millions of dollars from putting human beings in cages.”
The UMC Pension is one of the largest faith-based pension funds in the United States and ranks among the top 100 pension funds in the country. Prominent hedge fund, Pershing Square Management Fund, also divested its over $180 million in CCA holdings after the launch of the Prison Divestment Campaign last year.