The giant investment bank JPMorgan Chase & Co has made the decision to stop financing private prison companies. As Documented reported in mid-2018, various investment banks, including JPMorgan, collectively extended about$1 billion in credit to CoreCivic earlier that year. CoreCivic, along with Geo Group, is responsible for the lion’s share of federal immigration detention in the United States.
In total, banks collectively raised about $1.8 billion in debt for CoreCivic and Geo Group in 2018, leading to a public outcry and several protests specifically targeting JPMorgan, its investor conferences and CEO Jamie Dimon.
The final straw for the bank may have been the fact that business for private prison companies may be drying up. Private prisons boomed under the draconian immigration policies of the Trump administration, especially after President Trump rescinded an Obama-era policy that phased out federal use of private detention. Democrats in Congress are meanwhile fighting to limit the number of ICE detention beds, and Trump recently signed a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill into law, imperiling the companies’ immediate prospects.
Local immigrant-rights and community groups, including Make the Road, celebrated what they saw as a victory of their sustained pressure on the financial behemoth. Some drew parallels with Amazon’s recent decision to scrap plans for a Queens headquarters, showing how direct action can make huge companies uncomfortable enough to back away from what they see as regressive practices.
Read more at Reuters.
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Queens DA Candidates Distinguish Platforms
As the June election to replace longtime Queens District Attorney Richard Brown draws closer, the crowded field of candidates vying to replace him are differentiating their policy visions for the office. All are Democrats who have painted themselves as reformers after a quarter-century of Brown’s comparatively less flexible approach. But Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and former Queens Supreme Court judge Greg Lasak have voiced the most conservative prosecutorial approach, saying they will decline to prosecute marijuana offenses yet otherwise take a more law-and-order approach. Meanwhile, Tiffany Cabán, the only public defender in the race, has racked up endorsements from progressive groups as she says she’ll try alternatives to prosecution. Others, including Council Member Rory Lancman, are somewhere in the middle. Gotham Gazette
Two Immigration Attorneys Form “Guerrilla Habeas” Team
Former Legal Aid Society Attorneys Sarah Gillman and Gregory Copeland started the two-person team at NSC Community Legal Defense, an affiliate of the New Sanctuary Coalition helmed by activist Ravi Ragbir. It specializes in rapid-response defense for clients facing imminent deportations, or for those with complex cases other attorneys decline to take. The creation came in response to increasing aggressiveness by ICE prosecutors, who often try to have immigrants deported on short notice and despite potential legal avenues for relief. The pair has already taken on over 20 cases since its January founding, including two high-profile cases of immigrants married to U.S. citizens. The Intercept
Push for Driver’s Licenses for the Undocumented Continues in New Jersey
Immigration advocates in the Garden State have launched a full-court press against lawmakers and Gov. Phil Murphy (D), pushing them to allow the state’s undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses. Democratic lawmakers introduced proposals to do so in November, but nothing has happened since. Activists organized a petition drive that collected 15,000 signatures and delivered it to the office of Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D), and 13 labor leaders from around the state last week sent Murphy, Coughlin and Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D) a letter calling for the proposal to be passed. All 80 Assembly seats are in play in this November’s elections, meaning some lawmakers could avoid a controversial “yes” vote because it could become fodder for electoral opponents. The North Jersey Record
CBP Failed to Provide Basic Medical Care Before Releasing Migrants
After a grueling trek to the southwestern border, many migrants and asylum-seekers end up with pressing health issues, which Border Patrol officials detaining them seem incapable of properly handling. The brunt of this work often falls to volunteer-run and nonprofit providers, who have found released migrants often received no medical treatment during detention. Documents and interviews with local providers show these issues have been apparent for years, but are getting worse as the number of families arriving at the border continues to grow. Border Patrol claims it does not have the capacity to properly provide treatment, while providers contend the agency often prioritizes immigration enforcement over health and safety. The New York Times
The number of these so-called family units arriving at the Southern border has pushed CBP apprehensions to their highest levels in almost a decade, although they remain lower than historic highs. CBP announced this week its agents had arrested over 66,000 migrants at the border in February alone, the majority of whom were either families traveling together or children arriving without guardians. Over 260,000 people were apprehended between October and last week — a 90 percent increase over the same period a year ago. Many arrests involve groups of 100 or more migrants who traveled from Central America together and crossed the border to seek asylum in the U.S. Many did so en masse after Border Patrol decided to allow only a few families to claim asylum per day, despite that right being guaranteed under U.S. and international law. The practice is facing court challenges. NPR
ICE Releases Majority of Babies Held at Dilley
After legal organizations filed a complaint over infants being held at a federal detention facility in Dilley, Texas, ICE has confirmed 15 of the 16 children under 1 year old at the facility have been released with their mothers. The status of the remaining infant and another infant held at a facility in Karnes, Texas, is unknown. The 15 released mothers and children have presumably been sent to relatives in the U.S. or nonprofits. Federal guidelines say children cannot be detained for longer than 20 days, but attorneys with the American Immigration Council say at least one client was held at Dilley longer. Pacific Standard
H-1B Workers Allege Exploitation Based on Fear of Status Termination
Some holders of coveted H-1B ‘high-skill’ temporary work visas working in the IT sector say their employers expect them to work long hours and weekends with no overtime pay. These employers know visa holders cannot walk away from their jobs without the possibility of losing their status and being forced to return to their native countries. This appears to be harming permanent residents and U.S. citizens who work for the same companies, seeing as companies have to maintain consistent standards between domestic and foreign workers. This provision was intended to raise standards for foreign workers, but it appears to have caused some employers to harm everyone. Bloomberg Law
Journalists Allowed into Overflowing Colorado Jail with Quarantined Immigrants
A GEO Group-run federal detention facility in Aurora, Colorado has expanded over the past few months to hold an additional 400 detainees, ballooning the facility’s total population to over 1,300 people, largely consisting of asylum seekers. Still, the facility has added no new medical personal and continues to have only one full-time doctor, two physician assistants, two dentists and 17 registered nurses. About 350 detainees are now quarantined for mumps and chickenpox. Federal officials have rebuffed requests from local members of Congress to tour the facility, but allowed some local news crews in and promised all detainees would soon be vaccinated against the diseases. CPR, CBS4
Washington — Big Labor Continues Immigration Reform Push, DHS Grilled at Congressional Hearings, Senate Set to Rebuff National Emergency
High-level officials with the Department of Homeland Security will testify at three separate Congressional hearings Wednesday. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is scheduled to appear before the Homeland Security Committee in the Democratic-controlled House in what is sure to be a contentious dissection of the Trump administration’s immigration policies. CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan is set to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where there are sure to be questions about the three migrants, including two children, who have died in CBP custody over the past three months, as well as CBP officers’ use of metering and tear gas against migrants at the Southern border. Meanwhile, DHS Acting Inspector General John V. Kelly will testify before the House Appropriations Committee. The internal watchdog has produced multiple reports in recent months that are highly critical of the department’s competence in handling the care of immigrants in its custody. USA Today
Over 30 labor unions led by the AFL-CIO and Working Families United sent a letter to Congress asking for legislators to protect Dreamers and recipients of Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure designations. The federal government has moved to end the protections for beneficiaries of both programs, though the termination of TPS status for several countries remains tied up in litigation. The modern labor movement was once much more skeptical of immigration when it began in the 1990s and early 2000s, but become one of the staunchest supporters of protections for vulnerable immigrants as they join union ranks. The Hill
Four Republican senators have now said they will join Democrats in voting to terminate Trump’s national emergency declaration over his attempt to seize border wall funds. The move almost guarantees the measure — which has already passed the House — will pass the Senate with 51 votes and land on the president’s desk next week. Trump is expected to veto it, and opponents in Congress will almost certainly not have the votes to override that veto. Nevertheless, this initial rejection signals that the president does not have Congress’ support on this front and could play into the ongoing litigation around the issue. The Guardian
Yet another federal judge has ruled the federal government cannot withhold law enforcement grants to “sanctuary” localities to force them to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. This is the 10th decision in sanctuary areas’ favor since the federal government tried to adopt this policy, and joins decisions from the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the 3rd, 9th and 7th circuits. The Washington Post