In California, Immigrants Are Not for Sale

In June, the Supreme Court sided with anti-immigrant states and shattered millions of immigrants’ hopes. The court’s tied decision continued to freeze programs that would have provided some sort of relief from deportation to many undocumented immigrants. Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, the Obama administration’s deportation machine continues to tear communities apart. Through Obama’s programs, about 2.5 million people have been deported, more than the last 19 presidents combined who governed from 1892 -2000.

Record numbers in deportation means parents separated from their children, queer and trans immigrants sent to their possible death, students taken away from their schools and hundred of thousands of immigrants currently detained in facilities/jails across the country. In a capitalistic driven country and through the eyes of the greedy, where there is pain, suffering, trauma and even possible death, there is also financial opportunity. Obama’s deportation machine could not not have been possible without an agency that does not follow its own policies and private corporations making money out of detaining immigrants.

Private detention of immigrants is a multibilliondollar business. These private corporations have invested to ensure that anti-immigrant policies become a reality. In Arizona, private corporations partnered with politicians to pass infamous SB 1070, legislation seeking to grant local police the authority to detain undocumented immigrants. Corporations in the business of making money out of detention saw Arizona’s SB 1070 as investment and were instrumental in lobbying to pass such legislation.

Given the history of corporate greed and inhumane treatment in these facilities, California is taking bold pro-immigrant steps. Recently, the Assembly Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 1289, the Dignity Not Detention Act, seeking to put a stop at the private detention industrial complex in the state. Furthermore, this legislation seeks turn into law the humane treatment of detainees at private detention centers in California.

Those who directly benefit financially from this business are coming out against this legislation. The sheriffs get financial support from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to maintain jails. Despite horrible conditions, the city of Adelanto continues to make money out of immigrants by contracting with the GEO Group Inc. to run the Adelanto detention center. The California State Association of Counties receives financial support and lists both GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the two major private corporations making money out of immigrant detainees, as its partners. By opposing the Dignity Not Detention Act, when it comes to money over people, the Sheriff’s Association, the city of Adelanto and the California State Association of Counties have made their decision, and chose money and greed.

We are the state that has led the nation in forward thinking, humane and progressive immigrant policies, and Dignity Not Detention is a clear example of that. Do we want to continue being a state that makes money out people and prefers corporate greed over dignity? Or do we want to be a state that protects the most vulnerable, values humane treatment and ends the business of making money over people’s suffering?