The Sunday Post (Dundee)

All the President’s friends: Scottish pensions linked to Trump’s border jails

Public service funds hold £138m with finance giants bankrollin­g US migrant detention centres


Scottish pension funds have invested millions of pounds in firms bankrollin­g Donald Trump’s migrant camps, we can reveal.

The pension funds of Scotland’s public service workers hold at least £138 million in investment firms backing the president’s immigratio­n detention centres.

The funds are managed by internatio­nal finance firms with huge investment­s in GEO Group and Corecivic, America’s largest private prison operators. The investment strategies of Scotland’s biggest public service pension funds came under scrutiny yesterday as critics demanded an urgent review of where their money is invested to ensure they are not supporting, directly or indirectly, President Trump’s contentiou­s zero-tolerance immigratio­n policies.

Politician­s and public service trade union leaders urged the fund managers to review their investment­s.

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: “The managers of these funds must think extremely carefully about who they hand their money to. Pension provision should not come at the expense of a system of abuse.”

Dave Watson, head of policy and public affairs at the Unison union, said: “Scottish

local government pension funds need to do more to support ethical investment than bland policy statements.

“They need to look harder at where the money is going, including pooled nvestments that can mask bad practice.

“The workers who contribute to their pension funds expect their hard- earned contributi­ons to be invested responsibl­y, in line with the values they live and work by.”

Strathclyd­e Pension Fund, which manages the pension funds for 230,000 Scottish public s e r v i c e w o rk e r s, has £ 5 2m invested across Bl a c k r o c k , Vanguard, Aviva, St James’s Place, Jpmorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo – all of which fund the US prison operators.

Lothian Pension Fund, with more than 65,000 members, has investment­s worth £ 28m with General Dynamics, a multinatio­nal defence firm with US contracts to process migrants aged under 16, and Wells Fargo. North East Scotland Pension Fund has investment­s worth £ 58m in Blackrock, St James’s Place, Aviva and Vanguard.

The revelation­s come weeks after it emerged migrant children were being separated from their parents and detained in border camps after trying to enter the United States. Footage and audio tapes of distressed children caged

If their pensions are bankrollin­g migrant camps, people will be disgusted

in large warehouses attracted global condemnati­on.

The criticism forced the White House to end the practice of separating families after at least 2,300 children were taken from their parents. Amnesty Internatio­nal has called on the US Congress to end the practice of detaining families seeking asylum and for the release of parents and children.

Erika Guevara-rosas, Americas director at Amnesty Internatio­nal, said: “President Trump’s order to imprison children with their parents instead of separating them is just substituti­ng one traumatic punishment with another.”

The private detention sector in the US has boomed since President Trump came to power. Fo l l ow i n g a c ra c k d own on undocument­ed migrants there has been a surge in detainees to about 40,000 and the Department of Homeland Security is considerin­g adding space for 15,000 more people.

Shares in GEO and Corecivic, which have donated millions of dollars to the Republican­s, have made huge returns for investors since President Trump took charge in 2017.

GEO Group runs 11 immigrant processing centres in the US and one detention facility for families in Karnes C o u n t y, Tex a s . Corecivic runs eight, including one for families, the South Texas Family Residentia­l Centre, in Dilley, Texas, which has been branded “Baby Jail” by critics. A campaign is under way in the US

– Dave Watson of Unison

Trump swaps one traumatic punishment for another

urging firms to stop bankrollin­g the private detention sector.

The # Familiesbe­longtogeth­er coalition of more than 70 organisati­ons called on finance firms to pull their money out of Corecivic and GEO Group and there have been protests in Texas and Wall Street.

Here, Green MSP Ross Greer said: “It is upsetting to know that Scottish pension funds may have been invested in the companies running these camps and delivering Trump’s policies. This needs to end now.”

Willie Mcgonigle, regional officer for the Unite trade union, said: “Most Unite members would be shocked and disgusted if their pension is helping to bankroll Donald Trump’s migrant camps.

“We will be asking Scottish local government pension boards to review this.” However, Cosla, the umbrella group for Scottish local authoritie­s, defended the pension funds, saying: “We know that administer­ing authoritie­s and pension funds take their responsibi­lities seriously and operate within both their legal and fiduciary duties.”

GEO said: “The facilities we manage on behalf of the federal government in the United States have never housed unaccompan­ied minors. For over three decades, our company has managed ICE Processing Centers providing services for adults in the care of federal immigratio­n authoritie­s under both Democrat and Republican administra­tions.”

Corecivic said: “None of our facilities provides housing for children who aren’t under the supervisio­n of a parent. We do not operate shelters for unaccompan­ied minors, nor do we operate border patrol facilities.

“The valued but limited role we play in America’s immigratio­n system is not new, and the scope of immigratio­n services we provide today is absolutely no different than what we provided under the previous administra­tion.”

Both Lothian Pension Fund and Strathclyd­e Pension Fund invest directly with General Dynamics – £ 24m and £ 1m respective­ly – a firm which processes migrant children for the US Government.

General Dynamics said: “We have provided support to unaccompan­ied minors.

“This includes support services in the form of case coordinati­on, training and administra­tive support, and IT services.”

Yesterday, the Scottish public service pension funds said they were committed to ethical investment but that any involvemen­t in the US detention firms would be indirect and difficult to influence.

Lothian Pension Fund said it has a duty in law to “invest for the best returns to ensure pensions are paid when due”.

Strathclyd­e Pension Fund said they owned no shares in GEO Group or Core Civic: “Any exposure is indirect. However, the fund is an active investor and is always prepared to engage with issues and concerns that arise. The link to the fund in this case is so remote that, realistica­lly, there is no prospect of any meaningful engagement.”

Aberdeen City Council said: “The North East Scotland Pension Fund is a signatory to the UN principles for responsibl­e investment. The fund has no direct investment with General Dynamics and, as at March 2018, had less than a £ 200,000 exposure to General Dynamics.”

The investment firms, Blackrock, Aviva Investors, and St James’ Place, defended their investment strategies as ethical and responsibl­e and said the funds were managed by third parties.

Wells Fargo declined to comm e n t but Va n g u a r d said: “Children separated from their families is deeply saddening, and an issue of this magnitude needs to be solved by our elected officials.

“While private prisons make up a very modest portion of the Vanguard funds’ portfolios, we understand that some investors may wish to avoid certain companies altogether.”

If, as Edmund Burke insisted, the only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing then a lot of them have spent this summer on the beach.

Maybe it’s been the weather – “It’s just too darn hot to stop evil flourishin­g. Now pass the Pimms” – or the World Cup or Love Island, but wherever you look, there’s another bit of blackheart­ed business going on.

There’s a lot of names for it. In America they talk about the alt-right, in Europe it’s illiberal democracie­s. Increasing­ly, though, only one word describes what seems to be emerging in countries around the world. It is not one to be used in a hurry – but the word is fascism.

The Irish Times columnist Fintan O’toole suggests it is more like pre-fascism, saying that fascism does not suddenly emerge fully-formed in democratic countries but is given little test-runs, to research the market, to see how much people will tolerate before saying enough.

They seem to tolerate quite a lot actually and when they do finally say enough, well, their leaders retreat, a little, regroup and recalibrat­e their next assault on decency. Then they try again to see if this time people are a little more accustomed, inured to the politics of hatred, suspicion and division.

So Italy turns away boats of refugees, Donald Trump splits mothers from babies as they cross his border, and our Prime Minister Theresa May sends home the Windrush generation. There is outrage and condemnati­on, of course, but next time? Well, not so much. The onceunthin­kable becomes unremarkab­le.

But what, realistica­lly, can each one of us do? Well, if we were one of Scotland’s public service workers, for example, we might read our reports today then demand that our pension fund managers do not place our money with investment firms bankrollin­g Trump’s migrant detention centres.

We might suggest they seek and obtain categorica­l assurances that our money is not tainted by the misery of families languishin­g behind the wire of Texan detention centres.

Edmund Burke was half-right. Yes, evil flourishes when good people do nothing but that only happens after they become used to it, when they think the flourishin­g is relentless and unstoppabl­e, when good people give up.

But this is too important to give up, what is going on is too heinous to ignore. Perhaps good people can’t do much but we can’t do nothing.

 ??  ?? A little girl weeps as her mother is detained near the US border, left, and, right, children held at a detention centre in Texas
A little girl weeps as her mother is detained near the US border, left, and, right, children held at a detention centre in Texas
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 ??  ?? Relatives hold pictures of families detained in detention centres while demonstrat­ing at the
Relatives hold pictures of families detained in detention centres while demonstrat­ing at the
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 ??  ?? Jpmorgan Chase HQ in New York last week calling on the firm to stop backing private prison firms
Jpmorgan Chase HQ in New York last week calling on the firm to stop backing private prison firms
 ??  ?? Left, an asylum seeker, 2, cries as her mother is detained in Mcallen, Texas last month; far left, children and a guard at a detention centre in Dilley
Left, an asylum seeker, 2, cries as her mother is detained in Mcallen, Texas last month; far left, children and a guard at a detention centre in Dilley
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 ??  ?? Migrant families held at a detention camp in Dilley, Texas
Migrant families held at a detention camp in Dilley, Texas

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