Video: Protesters Stage Mock Baby-Caging Outside Florida Private-Prison Office

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Boca Raton's GEO Group — the single largest contractor for Immigration and Customs Enforcement — absolutely does not want anyone to accuse it of caging people or separating families. GEO is so upset by such allegations that it threatened to sue Dream Defenders, a Florida civil rights group, because the group planned a protest yesterday against the giant private-prison company.

Those empty legal threats didn't dissuade anyone from demonstrating against the company, which holds more than $400 million in ICE contracts. Activists marched into the street outside a GEO building in Boca Raton and unrolled a chainlink fence around a set of baby dolls — a mock baby-caging.

While GEO, formerly known as Wackenhut, does not operate the infamous migrant-child facilities in Texas where kids have been photographed sleeping underneath aluminum blankets in cages, the company does run the Karnes County Residential Center, an ICE detention facility in South Texas that detains children and includes classroom facilities for imprisoned immigrant kids. On August 2, fathers held inside that detention center announced they were going on a hunger strike and demanded to be released.

In South Florida, GEO operates the Broward Transitional Center, an oft-protested facility for "low-level" detainees like Mary Caceres, a mother New Times profiled who was detained despite holding a valid work permit, and "Maria," another woman New Times spoke to who was sent to the center and ripped away from her three children, all younger than 10 years old. Detainees there have also gone on hunger strikes in the past.

But GEO, a massive company that pumps campaign donations into the political system (and supports both President Donald Trump and Senate candidate Rick Scott, among many others on both sides of the aisle) does not like that its business model is becoming politically toxic under Trump. In July, the Dream Defenders pushed the Florida Democratic Party to ban donations from private-prison firms including GEO and its main competition, Tennessee's CoreCivic. In response, GEO fired off its legal threat to Dream Defenders a little more than one month later.

In the company's August 3 legal threat, GEO claimed it was libelous to state that a private-prison corporation "separates families," "cages" children, "puts Black, Latino, and poor White people into jail," and that the company exerts "improper influence over the United States political system."

Dream Defenders hit back in a bulleted response that factually explained each of those claims.

"Threatening us with lawsuits won’t stop us from exposing the truth about what the GEO Group and other Dream Killers are doing to our communities," the group wrote in its response. "Groups around the country are gearing up to stand against you this week. You’ll need more than flimsy legal maneuvers to stop us."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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