In July, we caught wind that the city planned to seek a private contractor to build and operate a new 1,000-bed facility under their existing contract with the U.S. Marshals Service. In doing so, the city would have not only contributed to the expansion of an industry that reaps billions from incarcerating human beings, but also the rising trend of profiteering from the criminalization of migrants under Operation Streamline.
Over the past two months, Grassroots Leadership and our allies, including La Union del Pueblo Entero, Proyecto Azteca, the South Texas Civil Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union, mobilized to urge McAllen City Commissioners to abandon plans to build a new private prison.
Collectively, our efforts included a letter to the City Commission signed by 50 national, state, and local human rights groups, a petition signed by 500 community members, an unprecedented turnout and overwhelming resident opposition at the city’s public forum, and a film screening and private prison panel discussion hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network to raise awareness and further engage community members.
The McAllen City Commission’s decision to reject GEO Group’s proposal to construct a new for-profit prison is a true testament to what communities can achieve when they stand together and fight for justice. While we celebrate we will continue to keep a close watch on the City Commission as there is a possibility they will “explore alternatives and seek new proposals later.” For now, though, we’re claiming this as a victory for the City of McAllen, immigrant justice, and the fight to end for-profit incarceration!