Immigration and the Penal System

The intense public debate over immigration and how best to address security along the long U.S. border with Mexico— which prompted the longest government shutdown in U.S. history early this year—is making itself known in proxy season with five proposals. Two have been withdrawn after agreements and challenges to the other three proposals are still pending at the SEC.

Lending to prison companies: The SEIU Master Trust has withdrawn a proposal at Bank of America and Wells Fargo that asked for a report by year’s end

on how BAC is identifying and addressing human rights risks to BAC related to the Trump Administration’s aggressive immigration enforcement policy, which aims to prosecute all persons who enter or attempt to enter the United States (U.S.), including the detention without parole of asylum-seekers and the separation of minor children from their parents who are accused of entering the U.S. illegally.

The proposal noted both banks lend to private prison companies, which are involved in immigrant detention. This is a new proposal in 2019. SEIU withdrew after Wells Fargo agreed to add language about private prisons to its Business Standards Report. Bank of America also reached an agreement with SEIU but the details are not yet available.

Family separation: Inmate rights advocate Alex Friedman also is raising concerns about the detention of immigrant families. He has a detailed proposal asking CoreCivic and GEO Group to

adopt the following policy, to be implemented no later than December 31, 2019:

  1. [The company] shall adopt a policy of not accepting immigrant detainee children (persons under the age of 18), who have been separated from their parent or parents by any U.S. government entity, for housing at any facility owned or operated by the Company.

  2. [The company] shall adopt a policy of not accepting adult immigrant detainees (persons over the age of 18), who have been separated from their child or children by any U.S. government entity, for housing at any

    facility owned or operated by the Company.

  3. If [the company] houses at any of its facilities any immigrant detainee children or adults described in sections 1 or 2 above at the time the policies set forth in sections 1 and 2 are implemented, the Company shall: a) immediately move to modify all such contracts to comply with the above policies or, if such modification is not possible within a six- month period, seek to withdraw from or terminate such contracts as soon as possible, including invoking any early termination options or clauses in such contracts, and b) diligently work to make arrangements to safely house such immigrant detainees that do not involve housing them at any of the Company’s facilities.

Both companies have lodged challenges at the SEC. CoreCivic argues it can be excluded because it concerns ordinary business by dint of micromanagement and since it does not address a significant policy issue. The company also says that it cannot implement the proposal, that it is too vague and that it is moot. GEO Group is making the same arguments. The proposal is the first of its kind, but Friedman has filed a number of proposals in the past on prisoner concerns at both companies.

Inmate and detainee rights: The Jesuit Conference has a second proposal at GEO, which notes serious allegations from October 2018 at a California migrant detainee facility run by GEO. It asks for an annual report starting in September

on how it implements the portion of the Policy that addresses “Respect for Our Inmates and Detainees,” including:

  1. How GEO ensures that its employees are aware of, and know how to apply, the company’s commitment to inmate/detainee human rights;

  2. Metrics used to assess human rights performance, including any process for independent outside verification of such metrics; and

  3. How GEO remedies shortcomings in human rights performance.

The company has challenged the proposal, saying its implementation would violate the law, that it is too vague and that it concerns ordinary business by seeking to micromanage the company.

Advocacy Position.png


Nadira Narine
Senior Program Director, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)

The current “zero-tolerance” U.S. immigration policy has become one of the most high-profile and contentious human rights issues we face. The Trump Administration’s more aggressive approach to immigration restrictions pushed arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) up by 11 percent in 2018. The resulting indefinite detention, especially the separation of minor immigrant children from their parents, has violated human and civil rights.

Biometrics: At Northrop Grumman, the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, N.J., ask for a report on its management systems and processes to implement its human rights policy. The proposal expresses concern about a new Department of Homeland Security contract for which the company will develop biometric identification information. The proponents are worried about potential racial bias and privacy issues as well as adverse impacts on immigrant communities. The company has challenged the resolution at the SEC, arguing it concerns ordinary business, seeks to micromanage its business, and is moot given the company’s human rights policy. (Also see p. 60 for proposal about facial recognition software.)