‘Dreamer’ activists detail abuse of immigrants in private prisons

Members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance purposefully allowed themselves to be arrested and incarcerated in late July. The activists infiltrated the Broward Transitional Center in Florida to record the stories of others locked up in the detention center.

The infiltrators are known as “Dreamers,” undocumented youth who have been mobilizing across the U.S. to gain documentation, dignity and the right to study. They are students who came to the U.S. as children and now wish to remain here.

One of the arrested students, Viridiana Martínez, described her experience in a recent interview: “I think that this place is systematically set up to keep these women here — and on the men’s side, the men — because there’s money being made in this place. This place is owned by a company, GEO. And every time someone is detained, they are given money: $170 per day.” (democracynow.org, July 31)

Federal tax money this year earmarked for immigrant roundups is expected to exceed $2 billion and will contribute big profits for private corporations involved in the immigrant incarceration system. The federal government plans new facilities to house 400,000 immigrants detained annually. (Associated Press, Aug. 2)

With the capitalist media ramping up racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric, the prison-for-profit system has become one of the most profitable industries in a failing economy. Innocent people languish in the centers for years. While Congress debated immigration reform, private prison corporations built facilities to hold hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

In 2011, nearly half the beds in the U.S. civil detention system were in private facilities. There is little federal oversight. The big three — Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, and Management and Training Corp. — have spent at least $45 million on campaign donations and lobbyists at the state and federal level in the last decade. (AP, Aug. 2)

Concentration camps for immigrants

The Dream infiltrators went into the Broward facility and saw how GEO was profiting from the creation of concentration camps for poor immigrants. Boldly, they reported on the incredible humiliation and dehumanization the immigrants face.

The private prison guards routinely abuse detainees, sexually assault and threaten women, and leave the lights on all night, making it hard to sleep. Food is bad and medical care is abysmal. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers constantly push people to sign voluntary deportation orders. Most people have no idea where their family is. (See “The Metrics of Change” at dreamactivist.org, Aug. 8.)

Martínez spoke of the concern she had for all of the non-Dreamer immigrants who were overwhelmed by the systematic oppression of the Department of Homeland Security and the private prison industry. “I have all of these things to my favor. … I’m a Dreamer, but there are so many people in here that … are not in that situation. … They’re here alone. … They got picked up, and their kids are … at home by themselves. Our movement has taught us, the undocumented youth movement. … We’re going to look out for each other, and we’re going to fight each other’s deportations.”

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