By MaryAnn Thompson-Frenk
On this Juneteenth, the celebration of ending slavery in the United States, (Texas was so far away from the northeast that it wasn’t until June 19th that the last of the USA’s slaves were freed. This day is referred to as “Juneteenth” here in Texas.).
I would like to point out how we should all be paying attention to the possible “why” behind Sessions/Stephen Miller/Trump’s insisting that immigrants who are requesting asylum be separated. Also, many parents are being sent back, but their children are being kept. None of those things should be happening.
One should also take notice of the prisons that are being built in Texas for $44million each which are supposedly for holding illegal immigrants. This is important to note because in Texas it is legal to auction prisoners to do labor for free (in other words, corporations pay the private prisons for the use of labor from the prisoners, but the prisoners are not paid anything. It is essentially legal slavery. This is not a Trump thing or a Republican or Democrat thing – it is a just hideous truth that this has been going on thanks to greedy corporations who pay to keep such systems legal.). But do the math and one can see why the added financial cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants instead of sending them away suddenly makes sense when one considers the large-scale “free” labor force that might come from the way things are headed.
Add to this, the case where attorney, Alan Howard, served as attorney in the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s lawsuit against Del Monte which he won in behalf of illegal immigrants lured to the USA by the false promise of employment/green cards being provided by the company but who instead were kept in terrible conditions and made to work for free. The company argued that the USA’s anti-slavery stance only applied to legal immigrants and citizens and not to illegal immigrants. Essentially, they argued that slavery was acceptable if the slaves were illegal. Keep in mind they had recruiters sent to other countries to encourage people to sign up with the understanding that the money made would go to their families back where they came from. I would argue that this kind of practice amounts to human trafficking.
But the law is not addressing those major corporations who are seeking to attract workers in these illegal ways. Instead, the laws in Texas make it legal for prisoners to do labor for free for corporations who are willing to pay. The money made by the prisoners should be kept in an account denied to them until they are released or else should go to their families. Instead private companies pocket the money from the corporations.
So when you see these large $44million per prison being constructed in Texas with federal funds, every taxpayer, Republican and Democrat and Independent, should be balking at the price – why spend that money there, when it is cheaper to deport illegal immigrants? Obviously, the answer is someone doesn’t want them deported. Then the question is, who does such a situation benefit?
Truth is, it benefits those who would profit from slave labor.
There is no nicer way to connect the dots here. So please consider the “big picture” people, as we celebrate this year’s Juneteenth in Texas…..that even as we celebrate the last of the slaves being freed in the USA here in the Lone Star State, we need to be vigilant, both as Texans and USA citizens to make certain that our country is not building facilities that will be turned into cheap labor forces for those corporations comfortable with slave labor. Because when it is a prison being paid, but the prisoners are doing the labor, it is slave labor.
If you are a Republican, please consider that it is your $44million in tax dollars per prison that is not being repaid by the workforce that could legally (at this time) be extracted from these private prison facilities being built in Texas, but rather the private prisons who will profit. No one wins here, except for a small handful….and our entire nation will lose not just financially, but our moral compass as well.
And that is priceless.
MaryAnn Thompson-Frenk is the co-founder of the Memnosyne Foundation committed to human rights.