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art by Favianna Rodriguez

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

“ You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. ” – César Chávez, UFW

Ahead of Wells Fargo Hearing, Families Belong Together Renews Call for Big Banks to Stop Financing For-Profit Prisons Profiting from Immigrant Family Detention

After JPMorgan Chase announced it will stop “banking the private prison industry,” coalition urges Wells Fargo and US Bank to make firm commitments to do the same

March 11, 2019

Ahead of tomorrow’s Congressional hearing with Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan, The Families Belong Together Corporate Accountability campaign, which is made up of 100+ organizations representing millions of people in our nation, calls on Wells Fargo and US Bank to fully end their financing of the private prison industry that is currently detaining over 70 percent of immigrants in ICE custody and also profiting off the pain of children and families across our nation. Last week, after facing intense public pressure from our Families Belong Together coalition, the #BackersOfHate campaign, and others, JPMorgan Chase announced that it will “no longer bank the private prison industry.” Wells Fargo recently announced it had stopped “actively marketing to the sector,” and a front-page Washington Post article today revealed that US Bank is also reducing their exposure to the private prison industry.

The coalition urges Wells Fargo, US Bank, and all banks to clearly affirm that they will stop banking private prisons categorically, meaning they will not refinance any current agreements or sign any new financing agreements with private prison companies. Research has shown that many private prisons have documented histories of human rights abuses, and since ICE’s creation, immigrant detention centers, overall, have reported 176 deaths. In fiscal years 2016 and 2017 alone, 22 people died in immigrant detention, with most of them being held in private detention facilities. CoreCivic and GEO Group - the country’s two largest private prison companies - depend on debt financing from banks, including Wells Fargo, to conduct their day-to-day business operations, finance new facilities, and acquire smaller companies.

Building on the work of many organizations over many years, through signing petitions by the hundreds of thousands, as well as by delivering messages to local banks and holding events at bank offices, more than 500,000 people with the Families Belong Together coalition have taken action in the last year alone to make clear that the funding of private prisons by JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo is unacceptable. Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan will testify tomorrow before the House Financial Services Committee.

*The following are quotes from key members of the Families Belong Together Corporate Accountability coalition:

“The big banks should not be in the business of tearing families apart or torturing and killing migrants. Due to massive public pressure and widespread outrage over brutal family separation and child prisons, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and US Bank have demonstrated a willingness to consider structural changes to stop financing the private prison industry, once and for all,” said Matt Nelson, Executive Director of Presente.org. "Supporting private prisons is financially risky and morally bankrupt. Clear and verifiable commitments from these banks are necessary, as is a commitment to transparency about the banks' progress. We urge Wells Fargo's CEO, Timothy Sloan, to publicly commit to stop all financing of private prisons during his testimony to the House Committee on Financial Services this week."

“Everyday people and the organizations they are part of have proven once again that our actions matter - they can help put an end to the private prison industry profiting from the pain and suffering of children and families. No company, elected official, or bank is above accountability to people and a basic moral code. We’re proud to have helped prove that point one more time. Now other big banks, like Wells Fargo and US Bank, need to step up and stop enabling Trump's cruel immigration agenda,” said Jess Rocketto Morales, Chair of Families Belong Together.

“A powerful movement across the country moved JPMorgan Chase to stop financing private prison companies last week,” said Javier H. Valdés, co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, has helped lead the campaign against Corporate Backers of Hate. “Now the dominoes are clearly falling, with Wells Fargo and US Bank confirming they are reducing their exposure. The next logical step for both Wells Fargo and US Bank is to clearly commit to full withdrawal from the private prison industry that is devastating our communities.”

"Activists and investors alike are pleased to see the banking sector address its problematic relationship with private prisons, who are categorically incentivized to violate the human rights of their inmates. We look forward to seeing these commitments being verified not just this news cycle--but for the long-term,” said Morgan Simon, Founding Partner at Candide Group.

“We still have a long way to go, but the over million members of MomsRising are excited about the change and momentum that we, and the over 100 organizations in the Families Belong Together Corporate Accountability Committee, as well as the years of work by additional organizations, are having on making real change to stop the financing of the private prison industry which profits from the pain and suffering of children and families,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director of MomsRising. “In the past several months, over 60,000 MomsRising members rose up and spoke out directly to banks about this concern, and over 7,000 MomsRising members committed to going into their banks to deliver messages urging them to stop financing private prisons, as well as organized events at bank offices. Women and moms make three quarters of purchasing decisions in our nation, and we’ll continue to keep the pressure on using our power as consumers, community leaders, and activists.”

“As Catholics we seek to stand for the dignity of all people, particularly those most in need. We walk closely with immigrants on both sides of the border. There is no virtue in profiting from detention of our immigrant sisters and brothers. So we are delighted to play a modest part in this creative, bold coalition which helped move JPMorgan Chase to stop financing private prisons. We call on the other banks to follow suit. We call on Congress to end contracts with and personal investments in private prisons,” said Eli McCarthy, Director of Justice and Peace for CMSM.

“Our communities have organized to make visible the role that banks like JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and others play in financing private prison companies and enabling Trump’s inhumane anti-immigrant policies of caging humans and separating families. After years of protest, our communities succeeded in forcing these banks to stop offering financial services to this morally bankrupt for-profit incarceration industry,” said Ana Maria Archila, Co Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “Wells Fargo executives will testify before Congress this week and we look forward to questions that lift the veil on the role Wall Street has played in enabling and profiting from Trump’s deportation-only agenda.”

“We're thrilled that JPMorgan Chase is breaking up with the private prison industry, but the fight continues to get more big banks to move their money," said Jasmine Rashid of Candide Group and the Real Money Moves Initiative, which has been working with athletes, actors, artists and everyday activists who want their money out of prisons & invested back in communities. "Most Americans don’t know where their money spends the night, but when they find out that their bank is investing their money in private prisons, they may want to pursue alternatives. Community banks and credit unions can serve as great options for people excited to have their money support renewable energy, low-income housing, women and people of color-owned businesses, and other investments that they can really be proud of.”

"This is a massive blow to the morally bankrupt private prison industry," said CREDO Campaign Manager Nicole Regalado. "The immigrant rights organizations that led this fight are changing the narrative around mass incarceration by exposing - and successfully working to cut off - all sources of funding for the private prison and immigrant detention industry. We expect other banks will soon recognize that financing for-profit incarceration is a liability and work quickly to end their involvement in an industry that makes its money by locking people in cages."

“As a mom, I will fight with everything I have to keep families together. Last week, when JPMorgan Chase committed to stop financing for-profit prison corporations that are profiting off the pain and separation of families, we showed that people organizing for what's right can win. So now we will keep organizing to hold JPMorgan Chase accountable to their word, and to tell Wells Fargo - now it's time for you to do the right thing. We will make sure they, too, get out of the business of profiting from tearing families apart,” said Alisa Angelone, member of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network.

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With more than 500,000 member-activists, Presente.org is the nation’s largest online Latinx organizing group; advancing social justice with technology, media, and culture.