Perception is reality, more often than not. When my Twitter friend Christian Henríquez shared a new cartoon with his stream, it got us thinking: Where are we going as a nation? According to some, the influx of illegal/undocumented aliens/immigrants is the biggest problem we have here in the United States. According to others (us included), the issue is so much more complicated and hints at a quick “blame game” that impacts the lives of many, honest, hard-working (and mainly Latino) families.
We came across a column in Sarasota’s Herald-Tribune that speaks about some of the issues surrounding an issue that has become quite politically and socially charged. The columnist, Tom Lyons, writes about a new immigration bill that Florida State Senator Mike Bennett is proposing and its consequences. Lyons also focuses on how GEO Group, a private jailing corporation, is profiting from detaining immigrants in Florida and other states that border Mexico.
In regards to Senator Bennett, Lyons mockingly explores why Bennett’s proposed legislation might not be as tough as other more draconian bills, like the one in Arizona. In the column he writes:
Still, I doubted Bennett believed some legislators actually want to make racial or ethnic profiling a state-sanctioned policy. Are there really Florida lawmakers, I asked, who would ask police to treat Latinos as suspects in circumstances where a foreigner with white skin might get a free pass?”Ohhhhh, yeah,” Bennett said.
Stupid question, it turns out. I soon learned the House version of the bill originally exempted citizens of Canada, many European countries, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Since tourists from those countries are allowed to visit for up to 90 days without a visa, backers figured that makes it OK to go after brown guys with Spanish accents but ignore potential illegals if they are blond and have French, British or German accents.
That exemption was dropped after advice that courts, and maybe even some voters, could have a problem with it.
Details, details. Whatever the methods, the aim is still to herd undocumented aliens into holding pens for deportation. And hard-core immigrant haters won’t be the only ones who don’t shed a tear.
As for GEO Group, Lyons calls them “a multinational but Boca Raton-based private prison company that makes money housing prisoners as far away as South Africa, Britain and Guantanamo, Cuba.”
GEO Group already has a federal contract in Florida to run two immigrant detention facilities — jails, that is — including the 700-bed Broward Transition Center, which houses non-felony immigrants awaiting deportation proceedings.
Then he writes something that troubles us greatly:
GEO Group has a growing stake in how states crack down on illegals. It has prisons in every state along the Mexican border, including Arizona, where locking up immigrants is a booming business now. And in Texas, GEO Group just announced an expansion of an immigrant detention facility, one of its numerous prisons there.
Now it stands to make much more money, if lawmakers keep playing along by providing immigrants in need of detention.
The column states that GEO Group has donated around $1.7 million to Florida politicians and political parties, with “$1.1 million of it going directly to the Republican Party of Florida.” He also says that GEO Group reportedly helped to craft the bill that turned into Arizona law, which is now the law that other states, like Florida, are trying to model.
The column concludes with this very troubling and revealing quote from GEO Group’s president:
GEO Group president Wayne Calabrese gave a different spin to his investors, according to a San Jose Mercury News story last year.
“Those people coming across the border and getting caught are going to have to be detained,” he said, so “there’s going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do.”
What will happen to our beloved country? Right now, the anti-immigrant momentum is gathering steam and the Latino population is the target. Are you ready to educate others about it? Are you ready to stop it? Or, as they say, will you stay quiet until the bills directly impact you?
God help America.