Tag Archives: private prisons

Sheriff Ed Goes To Washington?

First of all, congratulations to Sheriff Ed Gonzalez on his appointment by the Biden administration to the position of Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

I met Ed while he helped get Adrian Garcia elected Sheriff back in 2008 and then rooted him on when he ran for City Council District H to take over where Garcia left off. Intelligent, compassionate, and responsive are a few good words to describe him. All-around good guy is probably the better descriptor. Professionally, I’d expect him to do a great job in pretty much any capacity.

That said, ICE has had a lot of problems since way before Trump made it worse. It had problems during the Obama era, too. It is a relatively new agency created after the racism and bigotry that came about post-9/11. No one on either side in DC seems to want to get rid of ICE or the detention boondoggles that come from it. Reminder: While President Biden has banned private prisons in the Bureau of Prisons, he didn’t budge at all on immigrant warehousing and remains steadfast in warehousing children–just through another department.

Whether one points to ICE, or anything under ICE, like the Border Patrol, these agencies were created from racist sentiment and their practices are continually just as racist. It’s easy to say that structural change is needed, and that the culture of these agencies must be changed; however, no one person can do that without really taking a wrecking ball to the entire agency and creating something better. Simply changing a policy here and there will not rid the agency of its racist and corrupt practices. That’s why we say #AbolishICE.

Well, it is obvious that President Biden does not have this in the plan and Democrats are too damn squeamish to do anything about it. Unfortunately, that means Ed Gonzalez will be receive the brunt of criticism from both sides of the issue–those who desire change and compassion versus those who want to round-up and warehouse anyone brown or foreign with impunity and for profit. The centrists will argue for something in-between, but they aren’t the people who have been historically abused and targeted by ICE. The rest of us will just hope for the best and know that whatever happens, it is Joe Biden who is in charge.

And, with this said, a recent article regarding the Biden administration’s upcoming review of the extremist threat within Homeland Security (which includes ICE) gives some hope, as long as it is an honest and thorough assessment. Or, as DHS Secretary Mayorkas stated, “As we work to safeguard the nation and our values, we must be vigilant in our efforts to identify and combat domestic violent extremism within both the broader community and our own organization. Violent extremism has no place at DHS and we will work with urgency and focus to address it.”

Detention Watch Network said it best in regards to Gonzalez’s appointment:

“People uniting for the rights and dignity of immigrants will soon have a new face to direct demands to at ICE, which include:

  • Releasing people from immigration detention halting deportations (including Title 42 expulsions) amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the interest of the health of those detained and the public.  
  • Closing detention facilities, including immediately ending all contracts with private prison corporations and state and local governments as a first step towards ending the harmful detention system entirely.
  • Adopting generous prosecutorial discretion guidelines in order to protect as many people as possible from detention and deportation. 
  • Ending state and local entanglement with immigration enforcement, reducing the pipeline to detention and deportation.

“Under Gonzalez’s leadership, we are eager to see immediate shifts in ICE’s culture and operations. During the Trump era the agency saw a constant revolving door of short-lived, draconian leadership that double-downed on cruel and punitive enforcement practices. If confirmed, Gonzalez must hit the ground running to meet immigrant rights advocates’ demands and peel back the layers of secrecy that have created a deadly culture of impunity at the agency, where accountability is evaded at every turn.”

“And while we are looking for transformative culture change at ICE, we know that the racist underpinnings of ICE will continue regardless of who’s in charge.  Ultimately, ICE’s premise for existing is rooted in white supremacy, rendering the agency rotten to its core. ICE needs to be abolished.” 

Houston organizing group, FIEL, had this to say:

We have worked with Sheriff Gonzalez for a number of years and what we can attest to is the fact that he has been and continues to be a man who listens to and takes input from the community.  We understand that the role he is about to undertake is a huge and controversial role and we wish him well in this endeavour. However we have some things we would not like to see again such as massive raids, lack of prosecutorial discretion and continued separation of hard working families.  Some of the things that we hope to see in policy changes would be: 1. We would like a more just and uniform application of prosecutorial/administrative relief. 2. No more massive raids which send a shockwave of fear into our communities destroying community and government relations. 3. A definite end to the 287G program and Secure Communities which are policies that Sheriff Gonzalez understands hurt communities. 4. Treat people more humanely by suspending the use of ankle monitors for people who do not pose a flight risk. 5. Ending the ‘Collateral Damage’ policy when it comes to ICE enforcement in our communities. We are hopeful for a more positive future for ICE and at the end that we will see the agency’s power diminish as we move forward on immigration reform.

FIEL Press Release 4/27/2021

Obviously, when someone you know “makes it,” you can’t help but be excited for that person. ICE, though, is one of those agencies whose history reeks of hate, racism, corruption and more. While the leadership of the agency under Biden may say one thing, it is the rank and file and their bigoted Border Patrol union and associated groups that get more attention from the media and add to the bigotry already promoted by the Republican Party and white supremacists, thus roadblocking any change that is proposed. It is my hope that Director(-designate) Gonzalez is able to change the culture of the organization to one that is more compassionate in the realm of migration and that controls its messaging from the top. It is long past due that migrants be treated with compassion–in policy and rhetoric–rather than criminalized and hunted by the largest police force in the country.

Best of luck to Ed Gonzalez.

Calling Out Our Own: Following The Money

Now, let’s see what liberal freak-out happens next

For years, the Democratic attack against Republicans has had a mantra to convince the voters that one side is bought:  “Follow the money!”

Some of us actually do.

When it comes to private prisons and the border boondoggle that comes with it, both sides seem to enjoy the cash that comes from the industry, and the Texas Observer posted an article which outlines how much money the Dems have received in recent times.

Now, no doubt, Republicans have enjoyed more of the cash, but that’s not the point, right? And this is a national problem as even Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, and other nationally known Democrats are known to have taken tons of that cash. Some of these national Dems are even publicly calling out the warehousing of children while still taking that cash. When they start showing up at rallies, well, some of us get a bit annoyed.

In Texas, though, the private prison industry is huge. Corporations like GEO and CORECivic (Corrections Corporation of America) have been hired by the state government to house inmates, along with being hired by the feds to warehouse detained migrants. Some even run the “family residential centers” that have housed migrant families–and not just by Trump.

And the way some of these work:  Local government builds facility; locals give contract to private prison company to run it; private prison gets contract from state or feds; State and Feds ignore complaints about treatment of inmates, lack of health services, etc. It’s a vicious cycle in which multiple levels of politicians earn some easy campaign cash.

Needless to say, the list includes some of Texas’ favorite Democrats, such as former State Senator Leticia Van de Putte. I remember she supported the Texas DPS border surge that is still ongoing and costly. Then I see our own current Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner having received some cash when he was in the Lege. No surprise, there are also “border” representatives like Judith Zaffirini, Tracy King and others who enjoy, or have enjoyed, private prisons as some of the biggest employers in their districts, so, their support kept those private jails filled to the max.

Others on the list have been champions of offender second chances and sentencing reform for poor offenders who can’t pay fines.

I’m sure they’ll have their reasons for taking the checks. Some may just call them “unsolicited” contributions. Current candidate for State Senate (SD19) Roland Gutierrez is one of those and is donating his $250 to a good cause. [Update:  Gutierrez has accused his opponent Pete Gallego of accepting a $5,000 contribution from private prison giant GEO Group; however, further research has found that during the 2013-2014 campaign season, Gallego accepted over $12,000 from GEO and Corrections Corporation of America.] But whether it’s now, when children and families are being locked up in these freezers, or whether “back when” the state of Texas was in a run-up to locking up every low-level offender to fill official and rented jail space, it’s always been wrong to support these badly run facilities.

But, there is a quick-fix! If a check was received, donate it! MALDEF, Grassroots Leadership, Texas ACLU and others are assisting in representing and bonding out detained migrants. Put this bad money to good use. Thankfully, it’s not as much as Greg Abbott, who has a price tag hanging out his hind-side for just about any right-wing interest. And, then, never take a dirty check again.

Remember the question posed by the Observer:  Could it become a liability for Democrats? For most of these Dems in safe districts, probably not. For former Lege members who are now high-paid lobbyists, even less. For Dems as a whole, well, the Republicans are already playing their strategy of “they did it too!” The Republicans are lock-and-goose-step supportive of the money and locking up immigrants and citizens, alike, but when the Democrats make statements against the latest Republican anti-immigrant policy while holding a check from the industry, well, it just looks bad.

Donate it!

 

 

 

 

 

Kids and Families Are Still Locked Up, Stop Celebrating

Nothing is more annoying than seeing liberal and/or Democratic activists  and politicians portraying Trump’s madman of a signature on a document that really does nothing about the current human rights crisis as some sort of victory.

Our friends at Mijente posted six things you should know about the Trump executive order:

  1. DHS will receive more money to create new family prisons that will hold parents and children together, while the parents are being criminally prosecuted and while their deportation cases are pending.
  2. Given that criminal prosecutions and deportation cases of parents can take long periods of time, and that children are supposed to be detained along with their parents, Sessions will try to get the courts to grant him the ability to detain children indefinitely.
  3. Trump and Sessions will continue to implement their “Zero Tolerance” policy and prosecute everyone detained at the border.
  4. The Department of Defense will help provide spaces, like army bases, for these family prisons, and build new ones as needed. Other cabinet-level departments are being recruited to do the same.
  5. Sessions will be given more resources to deport families faster after they are prosecuted, and appropriate the funding if needed.
  6. The order does not speak to any families that have already been separated — and existing policies place the responsibility on parents to find their children in HHS custody and seek to reunite with them.

If if you don’t want to listen to us, then listen to Elizabeth Warren.

As political as this fight is, it’s about human beings. Yes, children are being placed in cages and in “licensed child care facilities” adorned with prison-style razor wire all around, but we’re also talking about families seeking asylum, having escaped violence and poverty in their home countries; and, which must be repeated for the allies in the back, IS NOT A CRIME! Therefore, children, moms, and dads should not be locked up while waiting for what is an administrative hearing–not a criminal court.

Trump and his ilk are experts at public relations. He’ll throw out one-liners to appease his followers and the Republican Party. Allies must learn NEVER to give-in to their rhetoric–any of it. And yesterday was just another example that made it seem like some thought this particular fight was suddenly over and that victory could be declared just to poke fun at Trump. No, the fight continues. Lives are at stake.

 

 

Thoughts on Viernes…02152013

The Prison-Industrial Complex In The News Again

A USA Today article on how Immigration and Customs Enforcement has pushed for increases in deportations caused a lot of ruckus today. What really caught the eye of folks, and as reported by Grassroots.org, was that the former Assistant Director of ICE who pushed for these increased deportations is now the EVP of GEO Group, a private prison corporation which gets a lot of government contracts to warehouse immigrants while they await deportation. GEO Group also does a lot of business in Texas, taking over local county jails and state prisons and doing a bad job of managing them, according to lawsuits filed against them.

Obviously, there are more than just contracts being transacted, since much of this not only takes government insiders-turned-private executives to get this done, it also take political money. And GEO Group’s PAC gives a nice sum of cash at every election cycle. DosCentavos did a little searching of the last couple of years on the Texas Ethics Commission and Federal Election Commission databases and after a little cutting and pasting found just who is getting the political money. For Federal candidates, click here. For Texas Lege candidates, click here. Yes, the list includes many beloved Dems who I hope return those checks–quickly.

Next week, GEO will announce its fourth quarter earnings, so we’ll get to see how good the return was on their PAC investments.

And since this thought dominated the Facebooks and Twitters today, I’ll leave it at that.