The City of Pembroke Pines joins Residents and Advocates in Non-Cooperation with the Proposed Immigration Prison in Southwest Ranches
After months of controversy, last night the city of Pembroke Pines finally terminated an existing inter-local agreement (ILA) with the Town of Southwest Ranches according to which, among other things, they would provide water and sewer service to a 1,500 bed immigration detention center the town plans to build in partnership with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). This decision marks a turning point to a development that increasingly appears no one wants, except those that expect to profit from it.
A growing and diverse chorus of voices has joined the initial protests of the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), and a resident-led movement has emerged asking CCA to “go away.” Additionally, environmental concerns voiced by the Sierra Club and civil liberties concerns about for-profit incarceration have also emerged.
ICE must immediately abandon its plans for this for-profit immigrant prison which is not wanted, nor welcomed in South Florida. In addition to our ongoing objections to costly and unjust incarceration of immigrant families, there are environmental implications, impacts in the quality of life for surrounding communities, moral concerns about for- profit prisons and anger about lack of transparency and accountability in government. Isn’t that enough to tell ICE to pull the plug?
Since last summer when residents and immigrant advocates first heard about the proposed prison, which could be one of the largest in the country, the opposition has grown significantly. In August, the Florida Immigrant Coalition did a phone-survey and out of 229 residents, 89% said they opposed the detention center. From that moment on, residents and community groups have been able to draw enough public attention as to bring this issue to the Pembroke Pines City Commission in several meetings and actually gain a victory by having the City of Pembroke Pines join its residents and the residents of Southwest Ranches in non-cooperation with the building of this prison.
Organizational opposition has been critical. Recently, the Broward Chapter of the Sierra Club passed a resolution opposing the for-profit prison for its immediate environmental impacts in terms of water consumption and proximity to the Everglades National Park.
Last November, FLIC sent a letter to ICE asking for a full environmental review of the proposed prison to which ICE hasn’t responded yet. Without this environmental impact study (EIS), ICE could be in violation of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and subject to a lawsuit
This proposed prison, driven by profit motive, is already draining public resources before even being agreed upon.Not even 12 hours had passed when CCA was already suing Pembroke Pines for the water agreement. Lawsuits will be flying back and forth costing the public thousands or millions of dollars, in addition to approximately the yearly $70 to $89 million* of taxpayer money that this new facility would cost ICE to run.
In addition to the environmental and economic concerns, ICE needs to reconsider its links to for-profit immigration prison companies like CCA who has questionable practices and pending lawsuits for human rights violations against inmates. It is about time ICE stops feeding the greedy at the expense of immigrant families, and considers alternatives to detention when necessary.
* Based on a calculation of an estimation of $122/per night per inmate for a 1,500 to 2,000-bed facility
The Broward Group of the Sierra Club has passed a resolution (see below) opposing construction of a 1,500 bed detention facility by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) in the Town of Southwest Ranches in western Broward County. The center would be run under the auspices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has yet to award a contract to CCA for this project.
The Sierra Club objects to the proposed facility because it would draw excessive amounts of water from the Biscayne Aquifer – approximately 180,000 gallons per day – at a time when the regional water supply is already strained by existing consumption and changes in rainfall patterns. The facility would also contribute to Broward County’s existing, and still completely unresolved, waste water disposal problem. Located only about a mile from the edge of Broward’s Everglades, the project would further degrade the gateway to what remains of Broward County’s natural areas – even while the County plans on taking control of the nearby Everglades Holiday Park for the purpose of expanded ecotourism.
“Building a large structure that will involve intensive water use, when water supplies are already overtaxed, and building it along the perimeter of development in Broward County, in close proximity to the Everglades, will greatly harm Broward’s residents and ecology”, said Mara Shlackman, Chair of the Broward Sierra Club.
“A massive structure of this size has no business being built in this location. The more humans encroach on the Everglades, the less open space remains for people and wildlife. Buffer zones of lighter development around protected public lands are essential”, said Judy Kuchta, who regularly leads outings into the Everglades for the group.
DREAMERS confront Southwest Ranches council members on proposed mega for-profit detention center in their town. This is the first time that elected officials from Southwest Ranches are questioned directly by immigrants about their plan to build what could be one of the largest immigration detention centers in the entire country, only for profit. The students offered to buy their representatives back!
Politicians and public officials in the state have made public their support for the facility, even if there is one only 30 miles away! CCA makes money every night an immigrant fills their bed spaces. Southwest Ranches constituents have accused their officials of “being in bed” with private prison lobbyist.
Private prisons have made more than $1 million in campaign contributions in Florida.
The GEO Group, along with CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) are the two largest private prison and immigrant detention operators in the country. At an average rate of $200 per night/per inmate, private prison operators profit over $5 billion a year. How do they do it? Like con-artists, they lure town councils and local government officials with promises of easy money and increased revenue. However, what they don’t tell them is at what cost!
Littlefield, Texas found out the hard way. The GEO Group promised increased “product” (aka detained immigrants) and alleged prosperity for a town that was struggling with an economic crisis. Instead, what Littlefield got was a mega-complex private facility, an additional $10 million contractual debt, and a fleeing population.
CCA and the GEO Group have spent millions lobbying local, state and federal officials and in campaign contributions to candidates running for these offices. They do so to have more facilities built and to increase their already bloated profits — even if these immigrant detention centers are not needed.
Invest in the people, not in prisons!
Next Tuesday, January 24th, at 1:30 pm, we will protest the GAIM USA Conference in Boca Raton, FL to demand that major financial institutions divest their holdings in the for-profit prison industry.
The GAIM USA conference is the largest annual gathering of the 1% in the US: hedge funds and large institutional investment managers. Major investors in private prisons who will be participating include: Wells Fargo, Bank of America, General Electric, Vanguard, FMR/Fidelity, BlackRock, Lazard, and others.
These big financial institutions are major investors in CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO, the nation’s two largest for-profit companies. These are two immigration prison monsters with very close ties to Florida: The GEO Group has its headquarters in Boca Raton, and CCA has plans to build a massive immigration prison in Southwest Broward.
Join us to demand the 1% divest their holdings in private prison companies like CCA and the GEO Group.
The 1% and immigration prisons
Over the past three years, hundreds of thousands of non-criminal immigrants have been subjected to excessively abusive treatment in for-profit prisons run for the federal government by the Geo Group (GEO) and Corrections of America (CCA). These big financial institutions are major investors in CCA and GEO, the nation’s two largest for-profit companies. Enlace is coordinating the Prison Divestment Campaign that is asking institutions, public and private, to divest and cut all political ties from the prison industry.
For-profit prison companies, which rely on billions of tax dollars as their primary source of revenue, have successfully lobbied federal and state governments to adopt and implement policies that have led to the incarceration of over one million immigrants over the past three years. 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 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 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, divested its over $180 million in CCA holdings after the launch of the Prison Divestment Campaign last year.
Since the divestment campaign began on May 12, 2011. CCA’s stock value dropped from $26.02 to $20.67, a 21% drop at year’s end. Geo Group stock has taken a similar plunge, from a high of $26.12 on May 12 to $16.75 on December 31, a drop of over 34%. The campaign has hammered steadily at Geo through one of its major investors, Wells Fargo.
Since the divestment campaign began on May 12, 2011. CCA’s stock value dropped from $26.02 to $20.67, a 21% drop at year’s end. Geo Group stock has taken a similar plunge, from a high of $26.12 on May 12 to $16.75 on December 31, 2011, a drop of over 34%.
The campaign has been exposing CCA and Geo as the major financers of Arizona Copycat laws, which has led to more immigrants and people of color being wrongfully imprisoned. These for-profit prisons have a long history of lobbying for laws that increase penalties and incarcerations for immigrants and people of color, supporting controversial bills like the 3 strikes laws and minimum mandatory sentencing that has created massive profits for these corporations and their investors.
The tables are turning, people are finding out the dirty secrets of the for-profit prison industry. No one wants to invest in a corporation that is actively involved in finding new ways of putting humans in cages where they are apt to be sexually molested or otherwise abused for the sole purpose of increasing a profit margin. These corporations run prisons like tenement hotels, they spend millions in lobbying and political contributions to ensure they are filled to the max at taxpayer expense,” said Peter Cervantes-Gautschi Executive Director of Enlace.
The Prison Divestment Campaign has helped convinced major hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management and the United Methodist Church to divest their entire holdings from for-profit prisons. Many individuals have also cancelled their accounts from private prison industry financers, Wells Fargo and Bank of America.
Enlace coordinates the Prison Divestment Campaign which brings together Occupy Wall Street, immigrant rights groups, criminal justice groups and religious organizations to expose for-profit prison companies as the money behind the wave of anti-immigrant laws and policies. Together they represent a growing movement demanding corporate accountability by ensuring people over profit. Major prison investors include Fidelity, Vanguard, General Electric, Scopia, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.
For more information contact Enlace at firstname.lastname@example.org or 213-284-3802.