“Expose and Close” is a nationwide campaign to shut down egregious private detention centers for immigrants. At 1:00 today at the Federal Building here in Austin, there will be a news conference regarding this campaign. I am posting what I think I will probably say during my part of that event. If you are downtown around that time, I’m sure Bob Libal and the other tireless advocates on this issue would love to have you come by and support our immigrant brothers and sisters whose imprisonment has now become big business.
Prisons for Profit
“God” is a name we give to that which we value most. For some, ultimate value is the common happiness of humankind. For others, ultimate value is whatever they can possess in order to be personally happy.
These two visions of value, one based on the worth of persons, the other on personal profit, have been at war since the beginning of human history. So it is no surprise that our own nation is divided into two warring factions arguing whether the ultimate good is determined by property rights or by human rights.
The prophets were ordinary people like you and me who spoke in the name of humankind. They spoke in the name of ultimate value. They spoke in the name of God. They came to remind nations that human beings are what ultimately count. They came to warn that any nation that values possessions over persons will surely die. They taught that valuing our common humanity was the very sinew of a nation. And so, a country that has come to value property over persons has the spiritual equivalent to cancer. There is no common principle to bind a nation once it has come to value personal wealth over the common good.
The primary diagnostic tool used by the prophets to evaluate a nation’s health was how it treated its most vulnerable members; particularly, its orphans, its widows and its immigrants
Private prisons for immigrants are irrefutable evidence that our nation has come to value profit over persons. Prisons for profit view immigrants, not as persons, but as raw material from which to draw profit.
There are those who say that private prisons bring wealth to their community. So did slavery. This nation has a long history of allowing the rich to profit off the enslavement of the poor. It is no coincidence that the population of our prisons bears an eerie resemblance to the faces of the people this nation enslaved, and those people from whom this land was stolen. To recon wealth without accounting for the humanity of those being enslaved is an apocalyptic sign that any culture is nearing its own demise.
Enslaving persons for profit is a cancer that has eaten at this nation’s soul from its birth. It eats inexorably at the very sinews of our own decency and humanity. I am no prophet, but I have come to tell you that placing immigrant people in prisons for profit is a death knell for this nation. We cannot continue to descend to this level of inhumanity and retain the universal principles that would hold us together as a nation.
In the name of humanity, in the name of what you ultimately value, in the name of God- Shut down these prisons for profit.