The Big Banks and Corporations Financing Trump’s Deportation Machine

Activists are taking aim at corporations like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo for their complicity in the administration’s mass deportation agenda.

Sarah Jaffe

Hundreds marched on a JPMorgan Chase shareholders' meeting demanding that the bank denounce Trump’s agenda of hate. (Make the Road New York)

Wel­come to Inter­views for Resis­tance. Since elec­tion night 2016, the streets of the Unit­ed States have rung with resis­tance. Peo­ple all over the coun­try have wok­en up with the con­vic­tion that they must do some­thing to fight inequal­i­ty in all its forms. But many are won­der­ing what it is they can do. In this series, we’ll be talk­ing with expe­ri­enced orga­niz­ers, trou­ble­mak­ers, and thinkers who have been doing the hard work of fight­ing for a long time. They’ll be shar­ing their insights on what works, what does­n’t, and what has changed, and what is still the same.

The corporate partners financing this plan are just as responsible for the separation of our families.

José Lopez: I am José Lopez, one of the co-orga­niz­ing direc­tors at Make the Road New York.

Daniel Altschuler: My name is Daniel Altschuler. I am the direc­tor civic engage­ment and research at Make the Road New York.

Sarah Jaffe: We are talk­ing before an action that you at Make the Road are part of: a nation­al day of action on Wednes­day, August 2 around the involve­ment of par­tic­u­lar big banks in the pri­vate prison and immi­grant deten­tion indus­try. Can you tell us a lit­tle bit about the campaign?

José: We launched a web­site and a cam­paign a cou­ple of months ago called Cor­po­rate Back­ers of Hate. It is an attempt to name and shame a bunch of cor­po­ra­tions like JPMor­gan Chase and Wells Far­go for being com­plic­it and sup­port­ive of Trump’s anti-immi­grant agen­da. That has tak­en place in a num­ber of ways. It could come in the form of JPMor­gan donat­ing $500,000 to Trump’s inau­gur­al com­mit­tee. It could come in the form of the CEO Jamie Dimon sit­ting on the Trump busi­ness coun­cil. But tomorrow’s action is focused on JPMor­gan Chase financ­ing the debt of pri­vate prison and immi­grant deten­tion cen­ters under the cor­po­ra­tions GEO Group and CoreCivic.

What we want to high­light is that this admin­is­tra­tion and this White House can­not car­ry out its anti-immi­grant poli­cies on its own. The admin­is­tra­tion will be rely­ing on the work of pri­vate com­pa­nies like JPMor­gan Chase that can pro­vide the fund­ing, that can pro­vide the soft­ware and that can pro­vide some man­pow­er to real­ly ramp up depor­ta­tions and the build­ing of a bor­der wall. It is extreme­ly con­cern­ing to us. We want to be sure that every­one across the coun­try under­stands the roles of com­pa­nies like JPMor­gan Chase in advanc­ing bad pol­i­cy under the cur­rent administration.

Sarah: Tell us about the GEO Group and Core­Civic and JPMorgan’s con­nec­tions to them.

José: Right now, a ton of the financ­ing for the expan­sion of GEO Group and Core­Civic is com­ing from JPMor­gan Chase. GEO Group and Core­Civic cur­rent­ly are the country’s largest pri­vate prison and immi­grant deten­tion com­pa­nies. What we want to point out is that the financ­ing is com­ing from JPMor­gan Chase, and they are con­nect­ed to the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion in many ways.

It has every­thing to do with prof­it. We want to be sure that com­pa­nies like JPMor­gan Chase are not prof­it­ing off of the backs of immi­grant fam­i­lies and are not putting prof­its before a moral oblig­a­tion to keep fam­i­lies togeth­er, to keep moth­ers with their daugh­ters and their sons and their hus­bands and their loved ones.

There has been a ton of work over the last cou­ple of months. Some esca­la­tions and some arrests hap­pened a cou­ple of months ago in front of the JPMor­gan head­quar­ters. There was a share­hold­er meet­ing that took place in Delaware where hun­dreds of peo­ple marched on the share­hold­er meet­ing and a cou­ple went in to con­front Jamie Dimon. We just want to con­tin­ue the drum­beat of going after cor­po­ra­tions like JPMor­gan Chase that stand to prof­it off of the mis­ery and suf­fer­ing of our communities.

Sarah: Tell us a lit­tle bit about the research that you have been doing around immi­grant deten­tion and pri­vate pris­ons and their con­nec­tions to the Trump administration.

Daniel: Make the Road and the Cen­ter for Pop­u­lar Democ­ra­cy, with our part­ners, embarked on this project to look into the com­pa­nies that were most com­plic­it. There is a long body of research, and there have been orga­ni­za­tions around the coun­try that have been look­ing into this for some time. With com­pa­nies like JPMor­gan Chase, one of the things we found was that this was one of the com­pa­nies that is financ­ing the largest pri­vate prison and immi­grant deten­tion com­pa­nies like the GEO Group and Core­Civic, for­mer­ly the Cor­rec­tion Cor­po­ra­tion of Amer­i­ca. The way that that hap­pens is that JPMor­gan finances the debt of these com­pa­nies, so it enables these com­pa­nies to sus­tain their oper­a­tions and to expand.

Sarah: Pri­vate pris­ons are a rel­a­tive­ly small por­tion of the over­all prison sys­tem, but they play a real­ly big role in immi­grant deten­tion. I won­der if you could talk a lit­tle bit more about the way that these com­pa­nies prof­it off of an increased depor­ta­tion régime like Trump’s.

Daniel: Com­pa­nies like GEO Group and Core­Civic are com­pa­nies that take gov­ern­ment con­tracts. We just saw an enor­mous gov­ern­ment con­tract that was giv­en to one of these com­pa­nies ear­li­er this year, and it is very clear that Don­ald Trump and his admin­is­tra­tion are rely­ing on an expan­sion. They need more beds to do that. They are rely­ing on these pri­vate immi­grant deten­tion com­pa­nies in order to do that.

Com­pa­nies are mak­ing mon­ey in dif­fer­ent ways. First of all, they are get­ting con­tracts to run facil­i­ties. One of the things that hap­pens con­gres­sion­al­ly is there is some­thing called a bed man­date.” Con­gress has passed a law so that there need to be 34,000 peo­ple fill­ing beds in immi­grant deten­tion facil­i­ties. We know that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion wants to ramp that up con­sid­er­ably. These com­pa­nies are get­ting con­tracts to help them achieve that goal and then make more mon­ey and help them meet their bot­tom line. What we are say­ing to JPMor­gan Chase and Wells Far­go is, You can­not be in the busi­ness of financ­ing, or being in any way finan­cial­ly entan­gled, with these moral­ly odi­ous companies.”

Sarah: Is the Trump admin­is­tra­tion ramp­ing up the amount of time peo­ple are stay­ing in deten­tion? Are they try­ing to deport peo­ple faster? Is that chang­ing at all under this administration?

Daniel: We are see­ing a focus from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion in increas­ing arrests. We have seen an increase in ICE arrests, over 40 per­cent in the ear­ly months of this year. We have also seen an effort from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to expe­dite cer­tain removals. They are try­ing to do away with due process for large groups of immi­grants, to ulti­mate­ly take steps towards a mass depor­ta­tion régime. That is part of what we are resist­ing, and we have stood up with allies across the coun­try against what the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is doing. We are now say­ing we are going to stand up to the cor­po­ra­tions that are coop­er­at­ing and com­plic­it in this.

Sarah: Talk a lit­tle bit about how Trump’s agen­da has been affect­ing the com­mu­ni­ties that Make the Road orga­nizes in. Tell us about what this is doing and how peo­ple are resolved to fight back.

José: There has been a height­ened fear in our com­mu­ni­ties and increased con­cern that the rhetoric is actu­al­ly com­ing to fruition. Already under Trump, more than 21,000 immi­grants have been detained and poten­tial­ly sep­a­rat­ed from their families.

A lot of what we have been doing is try­ing to play defense when it comes to the nation­al land­scape and mak­ing sure that we are work­ing to sup­port our com­mu­ni­ties through pol­i­cy and through advo­ca­cy. But also, we are cre­at­ing defense com­mit­tees. One of the big things that we have been doing orga­ni­za­tion­al­ly is mak­ing sure that com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are equipped to build safe­ty net­works on their local blocks and in their local com­mu­ni­ties to have imme­di­ate forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion if it is per­ceived that ICE is in the area attempt­ing to con­duct a raid.

While there has been this height­ened sense of fear, immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties at Make the Road and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions are doing a ton of work to real­ly build com­mu­ni­ties, cre­ate these defense com­mit­tees and come out and share their sto­ries. Com­ing out of the shad­ows and then launch­ing bold cam­paigns, like this Back­ers of Hate cam­paign, where they are mak­ing con­nec­tions to cor­po­rate part­ners and say­ing, No.” Again, this admin­is­tra­tion can­not do it alone. The cor­po­rate part­ners financ­ing this plan are just as respon­si­ble for the sep­a­ra­tion of our fam­i­lies. We can no longer let them slide under the radar. There is a lot of work being done, but there is still a lot more to be done.

Sarah: How can peo­ple get involved in this cam­paign, in the defense com­mit­tees, in work to defend immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties wher­ev­er they are?

José: Wher­ev­er they are, folks should def­i­nite­ly look for local grass­roots orga­niz­ing groups that are doing strong work either at the local lev­el or at the state lev­el or at the nation­al lev­el. Folks should pro­vide sup­port to those orga­ni­za­tions, go meet with those orga­ni­za­tions, go talk to those orga­ni­za­tions. In New York, we have offices in Brook­lyn, Queens, Stat­en Island, and in Long Island. Folks should def­i­nite­ly vis­it our web­site: www​.maketheroad​ny​.org.

There are oth­er things you can do if you can’t get involved with an orga­ni­za­tion, don’t have the time or are not in close prox­im­i­ty to a group. Folks can vis­it the Back­ers of Hate web­site. On the web­site, we pro­file a num­ber of cor­po­ra­tions, not just JPMor­gan Chase, and their con­nec­tions to this admin­is­tra­tion and try­ing to advance an anti-immi­grant agenda.

When you vis­it the web­site, you can click on the link that says, Give them hell,” and it will ask you for some basic infor­ma­tion like your name. Then it will allow you to write a let­ter that will allow you to reach the top exec­u­tive at each of the cor­po­ra­tions. You can write as lit­tle or as much as you would like about your sup­port for the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty. Then, once you click send” on that let­ter, the let­ter will auto­mat­i­cal­ly be sent to some of the top exec­u­tives for each of those corporations.

Inter­views for Resis­tance is a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assis­tance from Lau­ra Feuille­bois and sup­port from the Nation Insti­tute. It is also avail­able as a pod­cast on iTunes. Not to be reprint­ed with­out permission. 

Sarah Jaffe is a for­mer staff writer at In These Times and author of Nec­es­sary Trou­ble: Amer­i­cans in Revolt , which Robin D.G. Kel­ley called The most com­pelling social and polit­i­cal por­trait of our age.” You can fol­low her on Twit­ter @sarahljaffe.
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