Liberal groups in California are ratcheting up their attacks on ICE and other entities associated with it even as Democrats at the national level have tamped down their calls to “Abolish ICE” following survey after survey showing the campaign is a political loser in most states with competitive congressional races.
Together We Will-San Jose and a number of other liberal organizations have organized a petition for teachers to sign that calls for the state’s $225 billion teacher pension fund to pull its money out of CoreCivic and the GEO Group, two for-profit prison companies.
In the petition, the group falsely accuses the two businesses of running facilities that house children separated from their families as part of President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies.
So far, roughly 200 members of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System have signed the Together We Will public letter demanding that CalSTRS administrators divest from private-prison operators CoreCivic Inc. and the GEO Group, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee.
Some teachers also made a direct appeal in person at CalSTRS board meeting Friday. CalSTRS has invested $13 million in the two companies in the 2016-17 fiscal year, the petition says.
The Together We Will petition attacks the two companies for running detention facilities “implicated in the mass incarceration of Americans, and now profit[ing] from the imprisonment of refugee children at our borders and the separation of refugee and immigrant families.”
“As a teacher who spent my entire career working to serve children and families, I am appalled that CalSTRS would invest our money in organizations which [sic] profit from the destruction of families and communities,” the petition reads. “It is unconscionable that our retirement funds are being used to support this immoral system.”
A second letter from nearly 100 schoolteachers in Berkeley reportedly also urged divestment from the two companies and took issue with their treatment of immigrant children.
“This treatment of children goes in opposition to everything we do professionally and is a violation of basic human rights,” the letter states, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Spokespeople for both companies say they do not run facilities that host unaccompanied minors.
CoreCivic spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist told the Washington Free Beacon that they operate several immigration centers for adults and one, the South Texas Family Residential Center, exclusively for immigrant mothers with their children.
Gilchrist said CoreCivic has run federal immigration detention facilities as a limited part its overall business for more than 30 years, throughout Democratic and Republican administrations.
“While we know this is a highly charged, emotional issue for many people, much of the information about our company being shared by special interest groups is wrong and politically motivated, resulting in some investors reaching misguided conclusions about what we do,” she said.
“The fact is our sole job is to help the government solve problems in ways it could not do alone—to help manage unprecedented humanitarian crises, dramatically improve the standard of care for vulnerable people, and meet other critical needs efficiently and innovatively,” she said.
Pablo Paez, a spokesman for the GEO Group, called the petition and other similar divestment efforts “misguided and based on a deliberate mischaracterization of our role as a long-standing service provider to the government.” He said the company has played no role in advocating for or against criminal justice or immigration enforcement and detention policy.
He said the facilities the company manages have “never housed unaccompanied minors, including those who have been separated from their parents.” Instead, the facilities it runs cares mainly for adults, except one, the Karnes Family Residential Center, which has cared exclusively for mothers together with their children since 2014 when the Obama administration established it, he said.
The Department of Homeland Security inspector general conducted unannounced spot inspections of family residential centers, including the Karnes Center, in July 2016 and found nothing that warranted “serious concerns about the health, safety or welfare of the detained families,” according to the report.
“We welcome the opportunity to have an open dialogue with CalSTRS and other funds to address the common mischaracterizations of our company’s role and record as a long-standing government services provider,” Paez told the Free Beacon.
While CalSTRS usually rejects appeals for divestment because of political considerations, in 2013 the pension fund did sell its indirect stake in firearms manufacturer Remington Outdoor, the maker of the firearms used in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting of young school children.
The pension fund did not respond to divestment campaigns focused on efforts to liquidate holdings in the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline and the company chosen to build Trump’s border wall.
Together We Will’s teacher petition follows a campaign by tech workers in Silicon Valley and Washington state to try to pressure its company executives at such tech giants as Microsoft, SalesForce, Amazon, and Google to cut ties and end contracts with ICE and other government agencies.
More than 300 Microsoft employees in late June signed a letter denouncing the company’s cooperation with ICE during the middle of the national firestorm over the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families.
The administration has since ended the separations and is in the process of trying to reunite immigrant children with their family members.