LETTER: What can we do about the GEO Group?

233

DEAR EDITOR: The headline grabbing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has accurately been gaining more attention as a tool of fear and xenophobia. Not nearly as irradiated in the national spotlight is its partner in human rights violations, The GEO Group.

The GEO Group is a private for-profit company that “operates special-purpose, state-of-the-art residential centers on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” The company manages ICE prisons in territories all throughout the United States. If you were to travel within Aurora, you would find such a prison not too far from City Center Park, the Aurora Public Library, and the Aurora Museum of History.

It is imperative that the GEO Group be called out for its blatant contradictions to its self-advertised values: (1) respecting human dignity and rights; and (2) imparting a safe and secure environment. It is superficial inclusivity when the company extends those values to only the people they deem worthy enough (i.e., their shareholders). Evidence points to the company’s self-interest in ballooning its profits while sacrificing the dignity and worth of those in its charge. Revenue has risen steadily as its CEO, George Zoley, has continued to rake in millions of dollars. As CEO, it is all too apparent that greed is his only value.

Recently, the contract was extended between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the GEO Group to manage the Aurora prison for at least one more year. This agreement was made without there having been any thorough investigations into serious allegations at the facility. Back in March, a hunger strike was initiated by those being held inside the prison to protest awful conditions within the compound; the strike was also intended to highlight the GEO Group’s lack of transparency in its potentially psychologically damaging decisions (i.e., quarantine extensions, isolation). As with the current administration, the GEO Group’s lack of transparency runs deep. The ACLU is still trying to gain access to records related to a legal immigrant’s death at the facility in 2017. Our elected officials, the representatives of the people, still cannot find easy access into these facilities. It begs the question: What is the GEO Group trying to conceal from the public?

It is unconscionable for our society to allow this unregulated corporation to continue overseeing the Aurora facility. We are in a moment in history where our government is failing to defend the humanity of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees – those for whom our nation was founded. Organizations like the GEO Group should not be authorized to continue mistreating some of the most vulnerable individuals among us. For a company that deals in human lives, they should not be more concerned for the wellbeing of their shareholders. Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that this is at all decent, ethical, or “American.”

What can we do?

We must mount a pressure campaign against companies that allow the GEO Group to maintain this abhorrent immorality. Partners of the GEO Group have included Bank of America, CenturyLink, and Dell. These companies aid in the GEO Group’s profits by providing services that keep it operational. These companies do so with complete abandon and utter disregard for the families of the impacted in our communities – in communities like Aurora. The advocacy organization Worth Rises recommends that people who want to take action contact their elected officials (Congress), join a rally (Resist), magnify their voices (Petition), sever relationships from those who profit (Divest), reinvest in organizations working alongside these populations (Support), boycott companies partnered with Geo Group, and use social media to further broadcast this issue. Companies like GEO Group will only gain more power, money, and influence the longer we sit idly by and allow its practices to continue with total impunity.

We mustn’t keep ourselves suspended in complacency nor rest until greedy enterprise ceases its stranglehold on our ability to see each other for who we inherently are – a united people.

— Kevin Sheffler, via [email protected]