Dozens rallied outside the Seattle headquarters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Thursday to protest their investment in GEO Group—a notorious private prison company profiting from high levels of deportation and detention of suspected undocumented people under President Obama.
Immigrant justice campaigners, prison divestment advocates, and Gates Foundation grantees delivered 10,000 petition signatures demanding "immediately withdraw its investment in the GEO Group."
“GEO Group makes billions of dollars putting people in cages — and they drive profits by lobbying to put more people behind bars for minor crimes," said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org. "With Latinos now the largest group in federal prisons and detention centers—mostly for minor or non-existent crimes—the Gates’ investment is particularly galling for us. Unless they divest, the Gates Foundation will drag their legacy into the mud of wasteful, overcrowded and abusive immigrant prisons.”
During the rally, Jose Moreno, 25—who is one of the hundreds of people detained at the nearby Northwest Detention Center that recently partook in a hunger strike—told the crowd in Spanish that he wanted to draw attention to the conditions at the facility, saying it’s "jail not a detention."
“The Gates Foundation should be ashamed for putting money into the business of separating families and into the business of making money off those that are the most vulnerable,” added Maru Mora Villalpando, an immigrant and activist with the anti-deportation group Not1More.
The Gates Foundation, which is chaired by Bill Gates, invests $2.2 million in the GEO Group by way of a trust.
Under increasing attention due to the growing protest movement, GEO Group has faced accusations of prisoner abuse, medical neglect, rampant violence, and civil rights violations in their prison facilities, including hundreds of lawsuits — many of them settled before trial.