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Profiting on Ethnic Cleansing

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When your nation lacks a job policies to employ people where they live, it opens them up to making money off the worst of the United States: in this case an ethnic cleansing campaign that relies on private prisons and profit-taking by the few at the expense of the poor. But there are jobs and if you need a job, you need a job.

For many people who live in Willacy County, the most important thing about the facility is that it pays guards close to $20 an hour. Other jobs in town pay less than half that.

David Correa Gomez, the city of Raymondville’s economic development coordinator, says the region is impoverished and badly needs good-paying jobs.

“If we take a step back, it’s very important to take two steps forward to compensate,” he said.

Asked whether he had any hesitations about going back into business with a company that the county once said failed to provide safe and adequate care for inmates, Guerra says “absolutely not.”

He says MTC has not offered the city any explicit assurances that it has taken steps to address the failures documented at Willacy leading up to the riots.

“Not at the moment,” Guerra says. “But we have an extreme amount of confidence in MTC because they’re highly reputable in the U.S. in terms of the operations. They have the background and the credentials to back it up.”

“We were unfortunate to have the riot in 2015,” he says, “but things happen.”

Opponents of the facility say this is a false choice between jobs and immigration detention.

“To put money on the table and to say, ‘If you lock up your brothers and sisters, we will improve the quality of your street’ is a completely false setup,” says Christina Patiño Houle, an organizer with a local advocacy group, Equal Voice Network. “To position the well-being of the few, against the well-being of the collective, I think is an absolutely false dichotomy.”

I don’t disagree, but when jobs are lacking, a lot of people are going to see the choice in that very framing and unless you can offer good jobs, they are unlikely to be moved by moral arguments. We see the same issue in the “jobs versus environment” debate, another false choice, but one that is compelling when people need to put food on the table for their children.

This is why I think my call for a federally guaranteed job is not something that is an isolated demand. Rather, it helps to solve all sorts of problems by giving workers choices. When they don’t have to worry so much about eating and housing, they are more open to making choices around their work that might eschew working for private prisons engaging in ethnic cleansing or that might say that we don’t want to pollute our communities. That changes everything by giving workers power over their lives. Capitalists, especially these private prison capitalists, rely on poor communities to provide the labor for their evil tasks. Fight that and it’s a morally good quest on a number of levels.

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