USA: Govt. contractors accused of profiting from separation & detention of migrant & asylum seeking families

In May 2018, the Trump administration announced that it would increase prosecutions of migrants and asylum seekers crossing the US-Mexico border and implemented a “zero tolerance” policy intended to deter new migrants with the threat of jail sentences and by separating immigrant children from their parents. US Attorney Jeff Sessions stated “If you cross the southwest border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you... If you’re smuggling a child, then we’re going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you. If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally.”

At least 2,500 children have been separated from their parents at the U.S. border. Human rights organizations and activists, religious leaders, politicians, CEOs, company representatives and others strongly condemned the practice of separating children from their parents. The CEOs of Chobani, Apple, Uber, and others have expressed that the practice is inhumane and called for an end to family separation. (See more regarding CEO statements and company actions here.)

Following significant pressure, US President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on June 20, 2018 ending the practice of separating families. However, parents will still be prosecuted and families will remain together in immigrant detention as their cases are being processed, raising significant concerns regarding indefinite detention. It is also unclear when and how families that have already been separated will be reunited. 

Human rights organizations and journalists have accused private prison operators CoreCivic and GEO Group and govt. contractors Comprehensive Health Services Inc., Dynamic Service Solutions, Dynamic Educational Systems, General Dynamics and MVM of financially profiting from family separation and detention. An online resource by Corrections Accountability Project, "Immigrant detention: An American business" also alleges that bank and investor financing for CoreCivic & GEO Group supports these two companies to profit from the Trump Administration's harsh immigration policies.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited these companies, banks and investors to respond. Responses from BlackRock, BNP Paribas, CoreCivic, GEO Group, Comprehensive Health Services Inc, General Dynamics, MVM, Vanguard and Wells Fargo are available below. Bank of America, Dynamic Service Solutions, Dynamic Educational Systems and US Bank did not respond. JPMorgan Chase and SunTrust declined to respond.

Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have also been accused profiting from the Trump administration's anti-immigrant crackdown and the detention of migrants and asylum seekers through contracts with ICE. The Resource Centre invited them to respond. A response from PricewaterhouseCoopers is included below; Booz Allen Hamilton and Deloitte did not respond.

Update (as of 13 July 2019): Bank of America, BNP Paribas, JPMorgan Chase, SunTrust, and Wells Fargo have decided to stop financing private prisons in the United States.


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Company non-response
10 July 2018

US Bank did not respond

US Bank did not respond to allegations that through its financing for GEO Group and Core Civic, US Bank is helping to enable the work of these for-profit US immigration detention companies that are allegedly profiting from the Trump Administration’s harsh immigration policies, including separating migrant and asylum-seeking families.

Company response
10 July 2018

Vanguard response

Author: Vanguard

We will not be commenting on individual companies or holdings. It is our desire that policymakers come to a swift resolution to ensure the safety and security of the children who have been separated from their families. While defense companies make up a very modest portion of the Vanguard funds’ portfolios, and are largely held in index-tracking funds, we understand that some investors may wish to avoid certain companies altogether. Investors looking to screen Vanguard funds for specific holdings can use the search tool on Vanguard’s website. We also offer Vanguard FTSE Social Index Fund, which screens companies based on certain social, human rights, and environmental criteria.

Download the full document here

Company response
10 July 2018

Wells Fargo response

Author: Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo respects the seriousness of our country's ongoing debate about the criminal justice and immigration system. As indicated in our Human Rights statement, Wells Fargo recognizes that governments have the duty to protect human rights, and our company has a responsibility to respect human rights... Wells Fargo does not hold any shares of either The GEO Group or CoreCivic. Wells Fargo Funds, which are owned by the Funds’ investors, not Wells Fargo, currently hold a very small position in the companies in a passive index fund. SEC filings can make it appear that Wells Fargo is the owner, but we are not.

Download the full document here

16 July 2018

Govt. contractor MVM admits it held separated migrant children overnight at unlicensed facility in Phoenix

Author: AZCentral

"Contractor admits to holding kids overnight at unlicensed facility in Phoenix", 13 July 2018

A defense contractor admitted it occasionally held separated migrant children overnight at an unlicensed Phoenix facility... MVM Inc (...) canceled its lease for the building (...) Phoenix Councilwoman (...) said... If the company did, in fact, use the facility as a shelter, it could put it at odds with state and federal agencies... “We work diligently … to minimize the time that these children are in transit,” MVM spokesman Joseph Arabit told Reveal. “The process is a complex logistical undertaking with many things outside of MVM’s control, complicated by a recent spike in the number of children and families MVM was asked to escort... “[T]his led to some recent unavoidable delays when the period before a flight extended..." Arabit told Reveal it was a "regrettable exception" to MVM's policy to put children in hotels. Reveal confirmed, using information from an MVM database and children's immigration records, that two children stayed at the facility for more than 24 hours... ICE (...) is investigating cases in which children stayed at the facility overnight... Phoenix has no recourse against MVM (...) because the company didn't get caught violating city codes...

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25 July 2018

The Investor Alliance for Human Rights shares Guidance on Corporate Human Rights Due Diligence Related to Immigration Detention and Family Separation

Author: The Investor Alliance for Human Rights

According to the United Nation's (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the practice of separating children at the border constitutes “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child,"... Companies with existing or potential contracts with the U.S. Federal Government associated with the enforcement of immigration policies are exposed to the risk of contributing to, or being directly linked to, violations of human rights, including children’s rights, due process, equal protection, freedom from
persecution and torture, and the rights of asylum seekers. This exposes companies to significant legal and reputational risks, including brand risk and workplace unrest by employees who are strongly opposed to these practices. 

This document, developed by the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, provides an overview of the human rights risks associated with family separation and indefinite immigration detention, and includes guidance to help companies identify, assess and address those risks, both in the U.S. and globally.


By providing guiding questions that are in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and developed in collaboration with UNICEF, this document helps:

  • Companies identify, assess and address real and potential human rights impacts they may be contributing to, or directly linked to, through U.S. Federal Government contracts; and
  • Investors engage their portfolio companies to address the human rights impacts associated with immigration detention and family detention.

Download the full document here

28 February 2019

Representative Ocasio-Cortez wants hearing on banks funding immigrant prisons

Author: Max Abelson, Bloomberg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she wants Wall Street to tell Congress why it’s lending to private prisons that hold undocumented immigrants. "We’re going to hold oversight hearings to make these banks accountable for investing in and making money off of the detention of immigrants," she said at an event last week in Queens hosted by the nonprofit Make the Road New York. "Because it’s wrong.”... JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Bank of America Corp., the two biggest U.S. banks, are among lenders to GEO Group Inc. and CoreCivic Inc., which run facilities that have held immigrant families.

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6 March 2019

USA: JPMorgan Chase to stop financing private operators of prisons & detention centers

Author: David Henry & Imani Moise, Reuters

"JPMorgan backs away from private prison finance," 5 March 2019

JPMorgan Chase & Co has decided to stop financing private operators of prisons and detention centers, which have become targets of protests over Trump administration immigration policies. “We will no longer bank the private prison industry,” a company spokesman told Reuters. The decision is a result of the bank’s ongoing evaluations of the costs and benefits of serving different industries, he said... JPMorgan’s move away from the industry comes after activists have challenged Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon at the bank’s last two annual meetings over its financing of prison companies... Wells Fargo said in January it was reducing its relationship with the prison industry as part of its “environmental and social risk management” process.

... CoreCivic spokesman Steven Owen called JPMorgan’s decision “disappointing.” He said in an email that “decisions like this are being based on false information spread by politically motivated special interests, who completely mischaracterize our company.”... A GEO Group spokesman said in an email that the company “has never managed facilities that house unaccompanied minors.” He added, “We welcome the opportunity to have an open dialogue with all financial institutions to address the common mischaracterizations of our company’s role and record as a government services provider.” [also refers to Bank of America, BlackRock, Citigroup]

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26 June 2019

USA: Bank of America will stop lending to private-prison firms

Author: Lananh Nguyen, Bloomberg

Bank of America Corp., the second-biggest U.S. bank, will stop lending to companies that run private prisons and detention centers. “We have decided to exit the relationship’’ with companies that provide prison and immigration-detention services, Vice Chairman Anne Finucane said... The move followed a review by the bank’s environmental, social and governance... committee, which included site visits and consultation with clients, civil rights leaders, criminal justice experts and academics... The company will stop its activities in the industry as soon as it can, while meeting contractual obligations.

Shares of two of the largest private-prison companies, GEO Group Inc. and CoreCivic Inc., fell... Wednesday. Steve Owen, a CoreCivic spokesman, said Bank of America misrepresented the company and based its decision on politics. “We care deeply about doing business in an ethical, responsible way,” he said in an emailed statement... JPMorgan Chase & Co. took a similar step in March, breaking off its relationship with the industry after deciding it was too risky, and Wells Fargo & Co. is also halting loans to the industry... Protesters have been urging bank executives to back away from the business... While the companies run centers on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, they’ve said they don’t operate facilities that house unaccompanied minors. 

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26 June 2019

USA: Wayfair workers to walk out to protest management decision to supply detention centre; CEO rejects their plea

Author: Peter Cohan, Forbes

"3 Reasons To Sell Wayfair On Today's Employee Walkout", 26 Jun 2019

This afternoon at 1:30pm employees of Boston-based online furniture retailer, Wayfair, plan to walk out of work to protest its decision to sell beds and other furniture to a U.S. government detention center. According to the Boston Globe, Wayfair announced Monday that it would supply BCFS, a government contractor, with beds and other items for a detention center in Carrizo Springs, Texas for up to 3,000 teenagers -- generating $200,000 worth of revenue -- and an estimated $86,000 in profits... On June 21 About 550 Wayfair employees signed a letter to company executives asking that they cease all business with contractors that operate detention camps for immigrants. According to the Post, Wayfair's letter to employees declined their request: "As a retailer, it is standard practice to fulfill orders for all customers and we believe it is our business to sell to any customer who is acting within the laws of the countries in which we operate. Your fellow employees hold a wide range of opinions and perspectives and Wayfair, as a mass-market brand, is oriented to serve a broad and diverse customer base."...Wayfair's move is a strong sell signal for investors in its stock:...1.) It demonstrates weak cost-benefit analysis..., 2.) It puts Wayfair into a political firestorm that could damage its brand,...3.) It will make it harder for Wayfair to attract and retain talented employees... 

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5 July 2019

Canada pension fund divests from US migrant detention firms

Author: Tracey Lindeman, The Guardian

"Canada pension fund quietly divests from US migrant detention firms," 5 July 2019

One of Canada's biggest pension funds has... divested from two private prison operators responsible for the detention of thousands of migrants along the US-Mexico border... [T]he Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) held nearly US$8m in stock in Geo Group and CoreCivic, which between them hold the lion’s share of contracts to manage Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention facilities in the US. The CPPIB, which manages C$392bn (US$299bn) in pension funds on behalf of 20 million Canadians, did not make a public statement when it dropped the two companies from its list of foreign public equity holdings, but the change was spotted this week by the federal MP Charlie Angus, a member of the opposition New Democratic party... The NDP has tabled a bill, C-431, asking that the pension board abide by greater ethical standards. After the US migrant crisis began, advocacy groups SumOfUs and LeadNow collected more than 55,000 signatures on petitions calling for the CPPIB to drop Geo Group and CoreCivic from its investment portfolio... The CPPIB declined to comment.

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