Monday, November 7, 2011
Wall Street & The Anti-Immigrant Campaign
By Teresa Gutierrez
Published Nov 3, 2011 10:15 PM
On Oct. 18 the Obama administration announced that it had deported almost 400,000 undocumented immigrants during the 2011 fiscal year. “All told, this administration has deported nearly 1.2 million people, leaving a wake of devastation in Latino communities across the nation,” said the American Civil Liberties Union in a press release.
The Latino/a community has the largest group of immigrants in the U.S., but people from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean have been victimized as well by the anti-immigrant campaign sweeping the country. The massive deportations and the unprecedented detention of workers amount to a tsunami of injustice.
It is an attack on not only migrant workers but really against the entire working class. It is meant not only to terrorize one of the most exploited sectors of the working class, but also to sow division at a time when solidarity and unity among the working class is so decisive.
Make no mistake about it: The deportation and detention of workers is big business. It is hugely profitable for the capitalist class. That is why the immigration issue and the defense of immigrant workers has everything to do with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Recent articles in the progressive press and the production of a PBS documentary, “Lost in Detention,” reveal the depth of the injustice. Some of the information demonstrates the unholy alliance between the bloodsucking corporations and those in Washington who willingly take their marching orders from the CEOs.
In an article written for the Americas Program, Peter Cervantes-Gautschi shows that the two largest companies that build and operate U.S. prisons are very much involved in anti-immigrant legislation from Georgia to Arizona. (cipamericas.org) This comes as little surprise as corporate lobbying in Washington — involving obscene amounts of money — is one of the reasons why there is so much anger at Wall Street.
The two corporations that Cervantes-Gautschi notes are the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group. These two corporations have already earned the wrath of progressive groups. Prison rights activists and the families of the incarcerated have for years targeted the CCA for its abuses as well as for profiting from the unjust imprisonment of so many in this country.
According to the Pew Center on the States, 1 in every 99 persons in the U.S. is behind bars. Because of institutionalized and pervasive racism, the rates are criminally higher for Black and Brown folks. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, so the unbridled drive to lock up immigrants is no shock.
The GEO Group is a worldwide corporation based in Florida. It is infamous for securing the contract in 2003 to run the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp on the occupied soil of socialist Cuba. This detention center has been targeted by progressives for its use by the U.S. government to illegally and unjustly detain primarily Muslims under the ruse of “fighting terrorism.”
According to Cervantes-Gautschi, GEO and CCA spent a total of $6 million to lobby Congress in just one year. He points out that as workers marched for immigrant rights in record numbers in 2006, the scene was being set for a radical turn in immigration policy to primarily one of enforcement.
Cervantes-Gautschi notes that “Wall Street advisers publicly recommended buying stock in private prison companies like CCA and GEO,” and that “for every dollar spent on lobbying the government, GEO received a $662 return in contracts, a total of $996.7 million.” CCA received a total of $330.4 million.
The PBS Documentary, “Lost in Detention,” details how since 2008 “historic levels” of detentions and deportations have occurred, a fact that will forever mark the Obama administration.
The documentary shows how after a worker is picked up — by a Gestapo-like raid or by a terrifying police stop — and before he or she is deported, they are held in what amounts to human warehousing at these corporate-owned and run detention centers.
The imprisonment of migrant labor is the fastest-growing incarceration system in the country. There are over 250 immigrant detention centers now in the U.S. They are hell holes, exactly like the prisons that incarcerate primarily African-American and Latino/a people. They are mainly built in remote areas that are hard to get to and far from the families of the detained.
In detention, the undocumented workers risk beatings, death or rape. The documentary points out that many have no access to legal representation. Many beg for deportation just to get out of the hell hole.
The mass deportations and detentions affecting millions of workers and their families are why the immigrant rights struggle will inevitably connect in a massive and integral way with the Occupy Wall Street movement. These sectors will unite in a righteous anger against the rich ruling class that exploits us all. The seeds of that unity have already been planted.