NEW YORK, NY — This week, pro-immigrant activists in New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina continued their campaign to hold Wall Street companies including JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo accountable for their role in financially backing private prisons and immigrant detention centers.
On Tuesday morning, the actions began as New Yorkers and immigration advocates interrupted the participation of Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase (JPMC), at the Goldman Sachs U.S. Financial Services Conference, to demand that his company stop financing immigrant detention centers.
CNBC reported that the first protester, a Make the Road New York, entered the auditorium and said, “They’re locking up immigrants, including children, and tearing families apart. You have so much power to do something, why won’t you?” Dimon did not directly respond, but did say that JPMorgan Chase supported immigration reform.
Moments later, another advocate from Hand in Hand, said: “When will you stop locking children in cages?” In response, Dimon said: “They do have legitimate issues. Those prisons they’re talking about are sanctioned by government agencies, audited by government agencies, and a lot of people say they do a much better job than public prisons, though I’m not an expert on that type of thing,” pleading ignorant.
Dimon’s claim is unfounded and denies years of research on the litany of abuses at private prison and immigrant detention centers, including those documented in a recent report, “Bankrolling Oppression.” Dozens of immigrants have died in private immigrant detention in recent years, with transgender immigrant Roxana Hernández dying while in detention this year and toddler Mariee Juarez passing away shortly after being released.
The actions continued on Thursday, with one action in North Carolina and the other in New Jersey.
In North Carolina, advocates got in the holiday spirit as they called out Wells Fargo for being a Grinch and separating children from their families through their financial backing of private prisons.
The Grinch joined Action NC members, as they took over a local Wells Fargo branch and sang Christmas carols, in hopes that the bank’s heart would grow two sizes bigger. The group gave the branch manager a Grinchy gift and asked him to pass the word to Wells Fargo executives that they must get in the holiday spirit and cut ties with private detention centers.
At a press conference outside of the Wells Fargo Branch, Moises Salmerón, uncle of Pedro Salmerón who was detained at Stewart Detention Center in GA, said “my nephew was in there for several months. It broke my heart, every time I visited him. Pedro lost about 30 pounds. When he was sick, they refused to let him see a doctor. He was bleeding from his ears, nose, and mouth and his eyes were red. The guards regularly woke him up early, threatening him and telling Pedro that if he did not get on a bus to be deported, that they would beat him with their sticks. How can Wells Fargo be associated with such a thing? They need to disassociate themselves with these companies!”
Advocates in New Jersey went to the Chase Headquarters in Jersey City in an event organized by Make the Road New Jersey.
The protests are part of the Corporate Backers of Hate campaign, which works tto hold Wall Street corporations accountable for positioning themselves to profit from Trump’s hateful anti-immigrant agenda.
Natalia Aristizabal, Co-Director of Organizing at Make the Road New York, who sought to confront Dimon Tuesday with members of the organization, said, “The private prison companies that JPMorgan Chase finances are tearing families apart and locking immigrants, including children, in cages. Jamie Dimon won’t speak with us because we keep reminding his company of their complicity with Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. So we came to remind us that we hold him and his company responsible for being backers of hate and to demand that they withdraw from this morally bankrupt industry.”
“We’ve had enough of public figures claiming to support our communities and then turning their backs when it matters the most,” said Julio López-Varona, Co-Director of Community Dignity Campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy. “Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase financially benefit from separating families and detaining people in inhumane conditions. We will not stop holding Dimon and his company publicly accountable until they stop financially backing private prisons and immigration detention centers.”
The Center for Popular Democracy is a national network of more than 50 community organizations dedicated to achieving racial and economic justice through local grassroots organizing. CPD trains and supports leadership, staff, and members to grow base-building organizations to scale and leverage that strength to win cutting-edge policy victories at the federal, state and local level.