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Standing Up to Corporate Backers of Hate

Standing Up to the Corporate Backers of Hate

Melissa Nunez -- a trans woman who suffered in a for-profit detention center -- wants to know why JPMorgan Chase is financing places like these.

I'm a transgender Latina immigrant, and earlier this month I joined scores of other immigrants to rally in front of JPMorgan Chase's headquarters and demand that the company change its ways.

What does JPMorgan Chase have to do with immigration, you may ask?

As a bank financing private prison and immigration detention companies, it is a vital part of the system that kept me locked up for 183 days in terrible conditions.

I am a survivor of immigrant detention centers. After being detained at a CoreCivic detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., for more than six months, I regained my freedom just over a week ago. Like many transgender immigrant women, I was in detention because I defended myself from someone who attacked me for no other reason than because I'm transgender. The CoreCivic detention center to which I was taken was horrible.

During my 183 days in detention, I was forced to sleep in an area with 20 men. When I asked to be identified and treated as a woman, guards mocked me and called me by a male name. There was a single large area for showering. When the one sympathetic guard who insisted on giving me privacy wasn't around, I had to shower in the same open area as the men. I was also sexually assaulted by another detainee. When I told the guard, he refused to do anything about it.

I did my best to protest the terrible conditions, including going on a three-day hunger strike to fight for my rights. But private immigration detention centers like the one where I was held are simply inhumane. And they should have no place in our country.

Sadly, President Trump has now pledged to detain thousands and thousands more immigrants in these types of facilities, which could be very profitable for companies like CoreCivic and its main competitor, the Geo Group.

But these companies need financing to operate and grow. Which brings me back to JPMorgan Chase. JPMorgan Chase is helping finance these companies -- with its money, it is supporting the continuation and growth of the type of horrible detention center where I was held. What's worse: Chase CEO Jamie Dimon sits on Trump's Business Council, and the company donated $500,000 to Trump's inauguration.

And when shareholder activists with the Corporate Backers of Hate campaign that I'm a part of went to the JPMorgan Chase shareholder meeting to demand that Dimon disassociate from Trump, he said he was a "patriot" for working with Trump. It looks to me like this company and its leader are doing their best to get close to the same president who wants me and my neighbors locked up in these horrible places.

No one should suffer what I suffered in that CoreCivic facility. And no reputable bank should provide financing to companies operating such facilities. If JPMorgan Chase keeps backing these companies, it will simply be helping Trump enact his anti-immigrant agenda. This is an agenda of hate -- one focused on separating families, sowing fear in 11 million undocumented people, imprisoning many LGBTQ immigrants and refugees fleeing violence in their home countries. Is that the agenda that Dimon wants his company to support?

It's time for JPMorgan Chase to change its practices. At the same shareholder meeting where Dimon called himself a "patriot," he agreed to examine the company's financing of private prisons. Dimon and the company's board should now act immediately and end all financial involvement with private prison and immigrant detention companies. They should then reconsider their relationship with the Trump administration. At a time when the president continues to direct hate at our communities, it's time for Dimon to step off of the Business Council and for the company to use its power to stop Trump's anti-immigrant agenda.

Anything less will be an injustice to our communities.

In the months to come, LGBTQ immigrants like me are going to keep taking to the streets to demand action. We're also going to be calling on cities and states like New York, which have large public pension funds holding stock in many companies, to divest themselves of these private prison and immigrant detention companies and use their power to make sure that banks like JPMorgan Chase do the same.

This is a moment when JPMorgan Chase needs to decide whose side it is on. Do you stand with the Trump administration and its agenda of hate, Mr. Dimon? Or will you and your company take a stand for decency and the rights of all?

MELISSA NUNEZ is a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. Follow the group on Twitter @maketheroadny.

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