Aurora, CO – On September 15, 2023, the American Friends Service Committee, the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, Denver Justice and Peace Committee, COLOR Latina and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition hosted a creative action where they were joined by surprise special guest “President Biden” (photos upon request). Community members were also joined in their creative street theater by GEO Group CEO “Jose Gordo” and provided real life direct testimony from being inside immigrant detention. Together the community won the day, convincing “President Biden” to close all detention centers and Congress to reinvest billions of taxpayer dollars into community needs.
The groups demanded the Biden administration shut down GEO, free all immigrants detained nationwide, and reduce federal funding to notorious agencies Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) & CBP (Customs Border Protection).
Actions nationwide demanded accountability from the Biden administration – who made campaign promises to shut down private immigration detention centers. As the Biden administration approaches the last year of its first term, advocates insist on a drastic change of course and that he fulfill his promises to end violent immigration policies by rolling back the detention and deportation system that tears families apart. The groups also implicated Congress for underwriting budgets for both ICE and CBP, endorsing harmful and inhumane conditions with little oversight and called on them to reinvest those billions in community needs this budget cycle.
Maria Jimenez, a community leader who was detained at GEO for nearly 6 months after a routine traffic stop shared about her experience, “I worked for GEO cleaning offices and courts. They threatened us with solitary confinement if we refused to work and paid us $1 a day. When you’re in there they try to take away your dignity – you’re no longer treated like a human being. It’s the most traumatic experience I’ve ever lived through.” She added, “These companies profit off of the suffering of people. The separation of families – The dehumanization of human beings.”
Eleven people have died in ICE custody under the Biden administration’s purview – including one inside the Aurora facility in 2022. Despite their promises to address private immigration detention abuses, no one has been held accountable for those deaths. For every person that dies, many more endure irreparable harm, physically and mentally. A new ACLU analysis from July 2023 shows that an alarming 90.8 percent of people detained in ICE custody daily are held in detention facilities owned or operated by private prison megacorporations like GEO Group and CoreCivic.
“Today we stand together and remind President Biden of the promises he made to our communities; to close detention centers and to pass a pathway to citizenship. I’m heartened to be with such devoted community leaders who believe, as I do, that we can do better. We can Defund Hate and reinvest those billions in creating communities that are strong and resilient.” Jordan Garcia, Program Director, American Friends Service Committee.
“We witness the heartbreaking impact of these policies every day, tearing families apart and causing lifelong trauma. It’s time to prioritize justice, compassion, and the dignity of every person. We call on President Biden to fulfill his campaign promises and take immediate action to close greedy profit-driven private immigration detention centers, halt deportations that separate families, and defund the corrupt agencies of ICE and CBP. ” said Gladis Ibarra, the Co-Executive Director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
Organizations called on Coloradans to sign a petition to President Biden, email Congress ahead of upcoming votes on the budget and donate to the Colorado Freedom Fund to post bond and free people trapped inside GEO Group’s facility.
Today’s action is one of 11 actions taking place nationwide in-person and online as part of the Defund Hate and Communities Not Cages campaigns.