California Assemblyman Evan Low, an openly gay leading voice for LGBTQ rights who accepted a $4,200 campaign contribution from the largest, private-prison ICE contractor, said it was a mistake and has donated the money to a community group.
ICE CONTRACTOR MONEY
Low, who received the money during his 2016 campaign for the Assembly, said he didn’t know the money came from the GEO Group, which runs the Adelanto ICE processing center in San Bernardino County and eventually donated the money to Asian Americans for Community Involvement. The controversial Adelanto facility has been plagued by immigrant deaths, suicides, and hunger strikes, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The GEO Group contribution was uncovered last month by the queer site Into, which repeatedly asked Low to explain why he took the money.
Low’s acceptance of the money from the GEO Group was a surprise because his legislative record supports immigrant rights. Last year, he supported a bill that made it illegal for landlords to report undocumented renters.
Low also was one of several California leaders who said 200 Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants detained by ICE in 2017 should have been released, according to the Marin Independent Journal.
LOW ADDRESSES CONTROVERSY
Low, who remained silent on the subject for a month, finally spoke with the publication about the controversial campaign contribution.
“Is there a distinction between accepting campaign contributions and voting another way, sort of in the political speak, to take the devil’s money to do God’s work?” Low told Into. “That’s not something a lot of activists who are pure in their ideology are comfortable with, but that’s the reality in the governing world that we’re faced with.
“The bottom line is that I took due diligence to take a look at these issues to make sure that we’re making the right decision, and it was inconsistent with my values.”
On LGBTQ issues, Low has authored several bills:
- Establishing June as pride month
- Apologizing for the state’s prosecution of queer people
- Declaring conversion therapy a fraudulent business practice.
THE GEO GROUP
The GEO Group, who also donated over $100,000 to Trump’s campaign, according to Newsweek, directly opposes the policies that Low supports.
The GEO Group contribution happened due to a lack of oversight by his campaign team, who brought the issue to his attention and explained why it was controversial, Low told Into.
Low also told the publication why he refused to speak with them for several weeks.
“There is a fair assessment on people saying that’s not decisive enough,”Low told Into. “I think there is a fair assessment of many individuals saying some of your colleagues, in fact, a number of them, just quickly returned it, and I said well that’s fine, but I wanted to best understand what this is about.”
DEMOCRATS TAKE THE MONEY
Low isn’t the first Democrat to receive money from companies like GEO Group. Half of California’s Legislative LGBT Caucus has accepted money from similar groups.
- Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins accepted $4,200 from GEO and another $4,000 from Northrop Grumman, a group that also works with ICE.
- Assemblyman Todd Gloria accepted $1,500 from both GEO and Northrop.
- Assemblywoman Susan Eggman accepted $1,000 from CoreCivic, a prison management company accused of human rights abuses similarly to GEO.
Several politicians rejected money from the GEO Group earlier this year. Ten members of Congress rejected or refunded due to the GEO Group’s abysmal treatment of detained immigrants at the Southwest border, according to Open Secrets.
The GEO Group-run Adelanto prison also has been criticized with reports of inhumane treatment, guard attacks, hunger strikes, and three deaths in 2017, including one suicide, according to multiple news outlets.
Adelanto was named the deadliest ICE detention center of 2017 by the Detention Watch Network.