Clinton protested (again) over fundraising from private prisons

Hillary Clinton was disrupted at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus event yesterday over the money she is bundling from the private prison industry, marking the second time protestors have taken issue with this particular tactic of her campaign.

Juan Carlos Ramos, one of the protestors at the event, reportedly held up a sign reading “Hillary for immigrants in prisons” while chanting “Hillary we’re watching. My deportation will be your funding.”

Clinton did not address Ramos, and instead talked over him, to cheers from the audience:

Following the protest, United We Dream Action, the group Ramos is affiliated with, issued a statement reading, in part:

Our message to Hillary Clinton is simple: immigrant youth do not trust you. It is time to drop the prison money and stand with our community — you can’t have it both ways…Each dollar of private prison money accepted by the Clinton campaign undermines her pro-immigrant policy promises, and our community will not be fooled.

As the International Business Times notes, the link between Hillary Clinton and the private prison industry isn’t crystal clear. While one of her bundlers is a registered lobbyist for Geo Group, a company that runs private prisons and immigrant detention centers, and five of her bundlers serve as lawyers for a firm that has represented private prisons on multiple occasions, her campaign has received no itemized contributions from major prison corporations. That said, the link is still, you know, there. And it would be really easy for her to make that link look like less of an issue if she voiced opposition to the private prison industry — an industry that stands in the way of everything she says she wants to do about immigration and criminal justice reform.

Clinton’s silence on the issue is one of the primary reasons why her link to the industry looks so bad. It would be easy enough for her to put an end to the controversy over the issue by saying something negative about profit motives in the criminal justice system, and perhaps by announcing that Richard Sullivan and Brian Popper, the two bundlers most closely associated with the industry, will no longer be affiliated with her campaign. The longer she resists doing that, or anything, in response to these protests, the harder it will be to believe her if and when she does so.

Martin O’Malley has promised to phase out private prisons at the federal level Bernie Sanders has already introduced corresponding legislation in the Senate. This issue is the lowest of low-hanging fruit for the progressive base, and Clinton’s silence on it is drawing a sharp, negative contrast between her and the rest of the field.

UPDATE: That was fast…

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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