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Friday, March 29, 2019

Say no to "barbed wire monument to out of control capitalism"

Central Falls Mayor Diossa calls for shutdown of private prison

Image result for wyatt detention centerAt an “emergency meeting” of the Central Falls City Council to deal with the news that the Wyatt Detention Center has contracted with United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain up to 225 undocumented immigrants “[i]n support of the Southwest Border Zero Tolerance Initiative,” Mayor James Diossa has called for an end to what he called a “failed project brought to life during one of the darkest period’s in our city’s history.”

You can watch Diossa deliver his message HERE.

Here’s Diossa’s complete speech:

“Recent developments at the Wyatt Detention Center have rightfully caused great concern and outrage among all of us in Central Falls and beyond. Specifically, Saturday’s news that Wyatt is now holding more than 100 ICE detainees.

“I found out about ICE coming on Sunday, March 10th – the very day that ICE apparently moved into the Wyatt.  Upon learning of this development, we demanded that the prison’s administration turn over any documentation regarding a contract between the Wyatt and ICE.  The documents, which we received on Tuesday, indicate that the Wyatt has committed 225 units for immigrants being detained as part of the Federal government’s ‘Southwest Border Zero Tolerance Initiative.’

“There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between immigration detainees who were at Wyatt previously and this new Trump initiative.

“The ‘Southwest Border Zero Tolerance Initiative’ was announced in May 2018 by then Attorney General Jeff Sessions to detain and prosecute anyone caught crossing the border.  This set into motion the systematic – and as we have since learned, chaotic – separation of children from their parents.

“The agreement with ICE, to implement this Border Zero Tolerance Initiative, which the Wyatt’s administration entered into without my knowledge or consent, is dated January 9 of this year.
“This is outrageous and unacceptable.

“As someone whose own family walked across the border in search of the American Dream, I cannot and will not stand by as the Wyatt attempts to profit from the exploitation of human misery and the separation of families.

“I will not stand by and let this happen. And I hope neither will you.

“Let me be perfectly clear: The Wyatt’s new contract with ICE was not vetted, discussed or approved by me or anyone in my administration. Nor was it vetted, discussed or approve by the Central Falls City Council.  Nor was Wyatt’s new contract with ICE vetted or approved by the Wyatt Board.

“Most importantly, you, the people of Central Falls were kept in the dark by the Wyatt administration as they entered into this agreement with ICE.

“Therefore, I am calling on the Board of the Wyatt Detention Center to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the circumstances around which this agreement was made and, most importantly, to immediately terminate this contract with ICE.  And, while the immigrant detainees are at the Wyatt, the Board should immediately allow access for the Rhode Island Immigration Coalition to provide legal, social service and mental health supports.

“My office will publicize that meeting once it has been scheduled, and I urge all of you to join me at that meeting to make our voices heard.  Together, let’s make it clear that Central Falls wants no part of this.

“This situation is just one of many serious concerns that I have regarding the Wyatt’s administration.
“During a meeting held in January of this year, the Wyatt board violated RI Open Meetings laws and proceeded to vote to turn over a significant amount of power to the bondholders regarding the potential sale of the prison to a private operator. 

"On January 23, we filed a complaint with the Attorney General as a result of this violation of state law.  I trust that the AG’s office will find that, in fact, the meeting was held in violation of state Open Meetings law, therefore nullifying the votes taken during that meeting. We have copies of the complaint available for review.

“Furthermore, the Wyatt has not honored its financial commitment to the City of Central Falls. When the prison was being proposed, City leaders heralded it as the source of a windfall for our finances, guaranteeing a steady stream of revenue that would benefit the residents of our city. Well, from 2010 to 2014, the city received ZERO payments from the Wyatt. Not a single penny.

“That same year, I took action and the Wyatt was placed in receivership, a process that resulted in the City receiving more than $400 thousand dollars between 2015 and 2017. Then, the US Marshall Service pulled its detainees from the Wyatt after a widely publicized escape, causing the facility to lose significant revenue and, once again, default on its responsibility to the people of Central Falls. As a result, the City has not received any payments since 2017.

“In other words, the people of Central Falls have only received payments from the Wyatt for two of the last ten years! This is simply unacceptable.

“You, the people of Central Falls, cannot be held responsible for the lack of revenue and crushing debt – more than $100 million – that has crippled this prison from day one. And you should not be asked to be a party to the immoral and unacceptable practice of profiting from the exploitation of human misery and the separation of families

“The Wyatt is an unsustainable entity that has failed to hold up its end of the bargain with the people of Central Falls. Now, they are making back room deals to partner with ICE and eventually privatize the prison.

“For this and a host of other reasons, it is clear to me that the Wyatt Detention Center, a failed project brought to life during one of the darkest periods in our city’s history, has proven to be a failed corporation. Not only is it unsustainable and broken, it stands as a massive brick and barbed wire monument to out of control capitalism, corporate greed and social injustice.

“Simply put, the Wyatt Detention Center needs to be shut down immediately. Therefore, I have instructed our City Solicitor to pursue all legal avenues towards this end.

“For these reasons, I believe it is time for the Wyatt to dissolve as a corporation.  They have utterly failed at their mission. And the City continues to be a victim.”

Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade.Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.