Progressive protesters assail Schumer for taking cash from private-prison interests

Patrick Howley Political Reporter

A coalition of progressive organizations will stage a protest outside Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer’s New York office on Tuesday to assail his immigration policies, which they feel are being shaped by campaign contributions from private-prison interests.

Presente.org is joining with the Migrant Power Alliance, Dream Action Coalition and the National Alliance for Latino and Caribbean Communities, among other groups, for a “National Day of Action” targeting Schumer, who is a member of the bipartisan “gang of eight” senators who will introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill as soon as next Monday.

“We’ve got over 100 people rallying outside Schumer’s New York office. We’re delivering over 30,000 petitions calling on Schumer to give back the money he received from private prisons,” Presente.org senior campaigner Gabriela Garcia told The Daily Caller.

Schumer and his affliated PAC received $35,500 in campaign contributions this past election cycle from Fidelity Investments (FMR Corp.), which disclosed in 2010 a 14.57 percent stake, worth $141.48 million, in the private corrections facilities provider GEO Group. It also owns a stake in the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), according to an SEC filing. Schumer also accepted $64,243 from the lobbying firm Akin Gump et al, which lobbies on behalf of CCA.

GEO Group and CCA own and operate detention facilities under contract with federal, state and municipal governments.

Progressives have claimed that nearly half of all immigrants detained by federal officials are held in facilities operated by private prison corporations like GEO Group and CCA, marking a significant point of tension between pro-immigrant progressive groups and entrenched Democratic politicians who have accepted cash from private-prison interests.

Presente.org claimed that private prison companies “have a strong interest in jailing as many immigrants as possible.”

“We’re starting at noon. We’re going to have folks marching. We’re going to attempt to enter his office and deliver the petitions,” Garcia said, noting that while Schumer may be in Washington, D.C. she hopes a member of his staff will be willing to meet them and accept the petitions.

The protest will feature a handful of speakers, including spoken-word performer Frank Lopez, author of the piece “You Cannot Detain Our Spirit,” who will introduce his latest work at the demonstration.

Meanwhile, teams of activists in Manhattan, Albany, Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn will canvass Latino communities hanging door hangers and distributing information highlighting Schumer’s immigration record, and especially the cash he has received from Fidelity and Akin Gump.

The protesters feel that Tuesday marks the perfect moment to spotlight Schumer’s contributions, because the debate around the immigration reform bill has largely centered on how much money will be spent on new border patrol agents and equipment for the purpose of “border security.”

“It’s very common” for progressive groups to be dissuaded from targeting Democrats because of funding pressures that require the progressive movement to march in lockstep with Democratic lawmakers, Garcia said. “We feel that kind of pressure in the nonprofit world, but we’ve been pretty independent. We go after anyone whose position we see as a threat to the Latino community.”

“A lot of immigrant rights groups only target Republicans, not Democrats. They remain silent when it involves a Democrat,” Garcia added.

“We’ve had our eye on him for a long time,” Garcia said of Schumer. “He’s been pushing for border enforcement and a national ID card. He’s used the term ‘illegal immigrant’ and ‘illegals.’ And when we learned that he received contributions from lobbyists and owners in the private prison industry? We have more than 300,000 members, and they responded pretty passionately about that.”

“We know [Schumer’s staff] is aware of us. There have been a lot of people calling them and tweeting at them,” Garcia said.

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