Report from the Block the Wall Network on recent victories won by the anti-ICE divestment campaign and where things can go from here.
As the Abolish ICE movement erupts again, private prison corporations contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain migrants are feeling the heat. GEO Group and CoreCivic, who together exert near duopolistic power over the private prison sector, have been hit hard by a wave bank divestments. In just a few weeks, some of the industry’s leading lenders, Bank of America, SunTrust and BNP Paribas (parent company of Bank of the West) all announced plans to cut ties with private prisons. They join JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, who agreed to cease further financing the companies in March 2019.
The majority of immigrant detainees (around 70%) are imprisoned in detention centers operated by private prison companies like CoreCivic and GEO Group. These companies are structured as Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), which makes them particularly reliant on financing from large financial institutions and vulnerable to credit loss. Stocks in the industry are reeling, with CoreCivic down 27% and GEO down 22% over the last month. As GEO leadership admitted in May, divestment jeopardizes the industry’s future.
Private prison company GEO Group is warning investors that growing public pressure to divest from the private prison industry “could have a material adverse effect on our business.” – Newsweek
The divestments have roughly correlated with a groundswell of rebellion. Large swathes of U.S. society are recoiling in the face of the draconian xenophobia of the Trump administration, particularly after conditions detailing the mass detention of migrant children were revealed. Never Again Action and Movimiento Cosecha have revived the disruptive spirit of Occupy ICE from a year ago, launching new rounds of blockades at detention centers, ICE Field Offices and the offices of political leaders.
In mid-June Block the Wall Network and Olympia Assembly released call for a week of action against ICE profiteers from July 8th-12th. Identifying private prisons as a weak link within the deportation and detention infrastructure, the call urged coordinated direct action to shut down bank branches of Bank of America, PNC Bank, SunTrust and Bank of the West. Before the week of action began, Bank of America divested, SunTrust divested on July 8th and Bank of the West followed suit on July 12th; PNC remains invested as of this writing.
During the week, Bank of the West branches were shuttered on multiple occasions in Seattle and Portland, anarchists took action against PNC in NYC and Asheville and ICE-tech collaborators Microsoft, Amazon and Palantir all faced protests. Phone zaps were also organized against PNC and Bank of the West branches. Although much credit must be extended to longstanding divestment campaigners, the intervention of anti-authoritarians advancing an explicit direct action strategy into the movement could have been the last straw for some financial firms.
Widespread and targeted disruption can also likely explain the failure of Trump’s promised mass ICE raids to materialize. Here, the heroic sabotage of transportation infrastructure at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA by Willem Van Spronsen warrants specific mention in most immediate terms, while the movement generally can be credited with producing a hostile environment for ICE and Border Patrol agents. The true tactical diversity – from blockades, sabotage and divestment to popular education, mass marches and mutual aid – of Abolish ICE has been its greatest strength. This fluid repertoire of action has permitted participation of various form and allowed Abolish ICE to evade capture by NGOs or the Democratic Party. Divestment has been but one, crucial, component to this movement.
Although the #DivestfromICE movement has secured key victories recently, more work remains to be done. Other banks maintain investments in CoreCivic and GEO Group. CoreCivic and GEO also have large institutional shareholders who haven’t indicated they will relinquish their stock holdings. As leading financiers crumble under public pressure and exposure (or even the mere threat of pressure or exposure), now is the time to up the ante. Find what’s connected to ICE near you and organize!
Remaining Banks Invested in GEO Group and CoreCivic
According to financial data published in April 2019 (Bank of America, SunTrust and BNP have divested since), these are some of the larger banks continuing to issue term loans and revolving credit lines or are underwriting bonds to GEO and CoreCivic:
PNC Bank – CoreCivic.
Barclays – GEO Group and CoreCivic (bond underwriter)
Citizens Bank – CoreCivic.
Regions Bank – CoreCivic.
Fifth Third Bank – CoreCivic.
Major Institutional Shareholders of GEO and CoreCivic
*This data was obtained through institutional holdings listings on NASDAQ and was last updated on 3/31/2019. Total stock values are rounded. To find exact holding values use the NASDAQ website for GEO or CoreCivic. Offices listed may or may not be accessible to the public.
Vanguard Group – CoreCivic and GEO Group
BlackRock – CoreCivic and GEO Group
Prudential Financial – CoreCivic and GEO Group
State Street Corp – CoreCivic and GEO Group