BALTIMORE — A small group of protesters gathered in front of the Wells Fargo bank location at the corner of Fayette Street and St. Paul Street to speak out about the financial institution’s ties to the detention immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities.
One of 70 such demonstrations across the country organized by the Families Belong Together Coalition, a group of adults and young children joined together in Downtown Baltimore, chanting anti-discriminatory and hopeful slogans and making Valentine’s Day cards for detainees.
“We are here today as families to say that we are angry and outraged by the actions of the Trump Administration, ICE detention, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice. We will not stop speaking up until every child is returned to their parents, and until all families are freed from detention and allowed to pursue asylum in this country,” said Claire Cohen, a concerned parent who read a prepared statement while participating in the demonstration. “And, we know that JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo are complicit in the separation of children and their families, and of systematically locking up people who are seeking refuge in this country. In fact they are profiting from these evil practices.”
In particular, the Families Belong Together Coalition is focusing on JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo’s investment in CoreCivic and GEO Group, two companies involved in building and running detention centers that house immigrants. Protesters equate the bank's support of these companies with a tacit endorsement of the policy to separate children from their parents. These detention centers are flash points of controversy as they have been linked to substandard conditions, child abuse, and medical care without parental consent. The very practice of separating children from their parents, and the poor record keeping that has made reuniting families a challenge, has drawn the ire and disgust of many. The Trump Administration has argued the practice of “family separation” is both legal and a valuable deterrent to immigrants trying to enter the country.
A representative from GEO Group contacted WMAR to clarify that while the company, along with CoreCivic, does fulfill contracts to build and maintain immigrant detention centers for ICE, none of their facilities house children separated from their parents. Those children are housed in United States Health and Human Services facilities.
"Our company has never managed facilities that house unaccompanied minors, including those who have been separated from their parents or legal guardians, nor have we ever provided any other services for that purpose," a GEO Group Spokesman shared in an email.
GEO Group does operate one family detention center in Texas. The company runs a dozen ICE Processing Centers, with an additional facility being built.
“We’re here at Wells Fargo today because Wells Fargo is financing the groups that are in charge of constructing these detention centers," Cohen said. "We’re here to say that that’s not acceptable. And we’re here on Valentine’s Day to say that all children deserve love, and they’re not receiving it right now.”