Bank of America announced Wednesday that it would no longer finance operators of immigrant detention centers and private prisons.
The bank has decided to “exit the relationships” it has with companies that provide detention services at the state and federal level and has been discussing the issue “for some time,” according to a statement provided to USA TODAY.
“The private sector is attempting to respond to public policy and government needs and demands in the absence of long standing and widely recognized reforms needed in criminal justice and immigration policies,” the statement read. “Lacking further legal and policy clarity, and in recognition of the concerns of our employees and stakeholders in the communities we serve, it is our intention to exit these relationships.”
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Bank of America was a chief financier of Caliburn, which runs a facility called Homestead that houses unaccompanied migrant children, The Miami Herald reported last month. Caliburn, which operates under a U.S. government contract, received a $380 million loan and a $75 million credit line from Bank of America, the Herald reported, citing documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Immigrant detention centers have become a hotly debated topic in recent weeks. Scrutiny over deplorable conditions at border detention camps has heightened since a group of lawyers reported a lack of food, water, soap and medical care inside a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas.
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President Donald Trump has pushed a “zero tolerance” immigration policy, resulting in the separation of children from migrant families in detention camps. Six children have died in detention since September as a large surge of immigrants from Central America seek asylum.
Bank of America has also underwritten bonds or given syndicated loans to CoreCivic Inc and GEO Group Inc, two major private prison operators, Reuters reported. CoreCivic released a statement Wednesday saying Bank of America misrepresented the company.
“Bank of America’s decision is about politics, not about the company we are,” the statement read. “Bank of America knows we care deeply about doing business in an ethical, responsible way, and that we have stepped up as a leader in helping address some of the most serious challenges facing our country.”
George C. Zoley, GEO’s board chairman, chief executive officer and founder, released a statement Wednesday saying that his company has never managed border patrol holding facilities or any facilities that house unaccompanied minors.
“The Processing Centers we manage on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are not overcrowded and comply with performance-based standards, which were first established under President Barack Obama’s administration,” Zoley said. “These modern Processing Centers provide safe and humane residential care, high quality medical services, and enhanced amenities including artificial turf soccer fields, flat screen TVs in living areas, indoor and outdoor recreation, classrooms, multipurpose rooms, and libraries.”
The move was lauded as a “welcome step” by Families Belong Together, a grassroots coalition that opposes family separation.
“FBT’s corporate accountability group has been calling on companies to defund hate and divest from contracts with private prisons that house migrants,” the group said in a statement. “Other companies should do the right thing and divest as well — no one should profiting from family separation.”
JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo reportedly made similar announcements earlier this year.
Contributing: Nathan Bomey and Joey Garrison, USA TODAY
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg