Immigration

JPMorgan Chase Is Funding and Profiting From Private Immigration Prisons

The giant bank stands to benefit from the Trump administration's mass incarceration of immigrants.

Photo Credit: a katz / Shutterstock.com

One of America's largest banks, JPMorgan Chase, is quietly financing the immigration detention centers that have detained an average of 26,240 people per day through July 2017, according to a new report by the Center for Popular Democracy and Make the Road New York. Through over $100 million loans, lines of credit and bonds, Wall Street has been financially propping up CoreCivic and GeoCorp, America's two largest private immigration detention centers. 

The two organizations, part of Corporate Backers of Hate, a campaign from multiple immigration and social justice advocacy groups committed to revealing Wall Street's financial ties to the Trump administration, examined Securities and Exchange Commission filings to determine the extent of the financial connections, and how much Chase stands to benefit from the mass incarceration of immigrants. 

The details are hiding in plain sight, buried in a series of Securities and Exchange Commission documents, whose complexity frequently protects them from deeper scrutiny. This new report cuts through the financial jargon to reveal how Chase both finances and profits from facilities that divide families and place tens of thousands of immigrants at the mercy of private contractors, with little oversight or recourse from the deportation-happy Trump administration. 

They range from the $13.23 million Chase loaned CoreCivic as of June 2017, to owning $89 million of their bonds, and $77 million of Geo Group's as of October 2016. They were one of 11 banks that underwrote CoreCivic's most recent 2015 corporate bond offering of $250 million, contributing $40 million and receiving an underwriting discount of $300,000. Chase also underwrote $42 million of notes for GEO Group’s 2016 bond offering and received an underwriting discount of $630,000. And that only scratches the surface of the relationship, which includes additional millions in revolving credit and stocks, including $72 million and $11 million invested in Geo Group and CoreCivic, respectively. 

The impact of these numbers is not an abstraction for the families of the 12 immigrant detainees who died in custody in fiscal year 2017. Detainees are repeatedly denied medical care or given substandard food (one facility in Georgia had bones in its food). Melissa Nuñez, a member of Make the Road New York who was detained in a CoreCivic immigration detention center in New Jersey for six months, told AlterNet:

"I don’t have words to express my disgust that these companies are not only financing, but also investing in, private prisons and immigrant detention. What people like me have lived [through] in these private detention centers are the worst experiences human beings can live. They’re supposed to take care of you, and instead you’re subjected to harassment and abuse. No one should suffer this type of treatment. And no one should be positioning themselves to profit off it.”

Despite the massive financial investment from the likes of Chase, both CoreCivic and Geo Group continue to "charge the federal government a per diem rate anywhere between $30 per bed to detain immigrants for a short-stay facility to $168.64 per day, according to Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse data from 2016," as ThinkProgress reported in November. For CoreCivic, Geo Group, and Chase, there's profit in the pain of detention. While the report doesn't detail exactly how much money Chase gets from its massive investments, they wouldn't be consistently pouring in money if it wasn't good for their bottom lines. 

Activists were particularly concerned to uncover the extent of the funding, as publicly, CEO Jamie Dimon spoke out against Trump's September 5th repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but privately, his company provides over $100M in direct investments for America's largest private prisons. 

The Center for Popular Democracy and Make the Road New York hope that exposing JPMorgan Chase will encourage other banks to divest their holdings from private prisons, says Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy. "Earlier this year, JPMorgan Chase Chairman Jamie Dimon said he was supporting President Trump out of patriotic duty," she told AlterNet. "But true patriots stand up for the people and the values of a nation, not its rulers. Facilitating and enabling Trump's anti-immigrant agenda directly contradicts the values that Dimon says he espouses."

Instead, she continued, "that's exactly what JPMorgan Chase is doing by helping to prop up private prison companies, which have boomed in the age of Trump and are being deployed to pave the way for Trump's agenda of mass deportation."

Ultimately, Archila said, "JPMorgan Chase—and all companies that have a stake in private prisons—need to divest from private prisons immediately and put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting immigrant communities."

Read the fullreport

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.

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