Across Colorado, community members are organizing protests, vigils and speak-outs against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and their human rights abuses, as well as the companies that profiteer off human detention. As more and more stories are published about the hellish conditions migrants are subjected to while in ICE and Customs and Border Control custody, opposition is swelling against these agencies and the private businesses they collude with to do their dirty work all across the country.
Human rights abuses not just restricted to the border
The number of undocumented people living in Colorado has dropped off considerably in the last decade — nearly 14 percent since the Great Recession. Despite this, facilities like the ICE detention center in Aurora, which is part of the Denver Metropolitan Area, have increased their holding capacity. The Aurora facility, which is run by the infamous private prison company GEO Group, has expanded the facility by 430 beds. Reports of abuses, outbreaks of diseases like mumps and chickenpox, the withholding of medical care, and deaths are now commonplace and on the rise.
A few dozen miles north in Boulder another company named BI Incorporated — acquired by GEO Group in 2010 for $415 million — expanded by feeding off the U.S. deportation machine. BI got its start in 1978 as a producer of cattle-monitoring services but since that time has expanded to produce various surveillance and detention products and technologies used throughout the criminal justice system. Since 2004, the year after ICE was created, BI has been awarded more than half a billion dollars by the U..S government. In just the past few years, the number of people monitored by BI technologies has increased by almost 200 percent.
With its various acquisitions, GEO Group profits from nearly every part in the detention process — from arrests to managing un-detained people awaiting processing, to running detention facilities like the one in Aurora, to post-detention monitoring, and even deportation. In the first quarter of 2018, GEO Group reported an income of nearly $565 million, a $15 million increase from the same period in 2017.
GEO Group’s immigrant detention center in Aurora was the site of an anti-ICE rally on June 21. More than 200 people came together to demand humane treatment and the release of immigrants. Activists marched around the facility and saw detainees inside holding up signs, waving, flashing peace signs, and trying to communicate phone numbers for people to call by holding up their fingers.
Moira Casados Cassidy, a teacher in Denver, was outraged: “The people inside were holding up signs with how long they had been in detention. We saw someone hold up a sign that said ‘help.’ They looked just like my students!”
Days later, these scenes of heart-wrenching desperation were shared at another 100-person-strong protest, this time against BI Incorporated in Boulder.
There, one community organizer, Bruce Norikane, whose parents had been forced into internment camps by the U.S. government during World War II, spoke:
“What happened to my parents was inexcusable. But I have to say what is happening to these children now is even worse. My parents could stay with their families in the camps to be taken care of. These children today are separated from their mothers and families by hundreds of miles.”
In an interview, Katie Farnan, an activist with Indivisible Front Range Resistance and one of the organizers of the rally, told Liberation News: “We want to shine a light and bring awareness to how Boulder County is connected to the larger immigrant rights story happening now. BI Inc. is owned by GEO Group, [which] is directly responsible for human rights abuses happening in detention centers that they own. BI Inc. is complicit in that because they’re owned by the same company and profit in human misery.”
Many protesters at the rally had their own harrowing personal connections with the brutality of the U.S. immigration machine. Nik Ibanez stated: “I have family who have been deported, so this is personal. Show up, step up, protect your community.”
More protests are planned at the GEO Group’s ICE facility in Aurora. The next one will be on July 12.
Boulder residents are calling on their City Council to divest from ICE by passing a resolution to that effect, and calling on the Boulder Chamber of Commerce to remove BI Incorporated as a member. The Chamber can be reached at (303) 442-1044 and at [email protected]