Posts Tagged ‘Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’

Lives in Limbo: A Visit to the Glades County Detention Center

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Lives in Limbo: A Visit to the Glades County Detention Center Share/Save/Bookmark Mar 11, 2014

Last month I joined immigrant rights partners in Southwest Florida to visit our immigrant neighbors being held at the Glades County Detention Center. We could not bring any cameras inside. All I could do was draw and take notes of what I saw and experienced. When we entered the facility – run by the County Sheriff, who gets federal funding to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as a detention center— I found myself smiling to the staff, trying to beam love wherever I went to the county officers, the detention officer, the ICE officials, everyone. The tour of the building still felt abstract- cinderblock walls, fluorescent lights, that really awful processed-food cafeteria grey water smell coming from the kitchen, the glorified sandbox that baked in the Florida sun that provided one hour of outside fresh air for detainees. That sweet, make-nice part of me wanted to believe that this wasn’t so bad.

Then we went up to the control room. Like a Foucaultian nightmare, we saw all the detainees in their “pods.” I turned my head to hide my tears from the ICE and County Officers. Who was I to be up in this room with the freedom to leave at any time when these men and women were trapped in a multi-use space where you ate, slept, used the bathroom and tried to pass the time each day?

Deshawnda Chapparro, Rev Allison Farnum, and Grey Torrico of FL Immigrant Coalition

We were able to sit down with a group of men and listen to their stories and experiences. All of the men were people of color, detained anywhere from 2-4 months. One man corrected us and said, “C’mon, man, we’re not detainees, we are inmates.” The injustice and despair of the men was palpable. All of them were waiting: waiting for a court date; for communication from their lawyers; to discover if their fate would be to be deported to a nation where they never even lived; waiting to be reunited with their spouses and kids. Some came over to the US when they were toddlers. Quite a few were picked up for not coming to a court date as Legal Permanent Residents. They say they never received any notification of the court date. The harassments all men received from county officers each day ranged from having their daily-use cup swiped from them (to replace was $1) to taunting lines like, “Go tell ICE about your human rights!” when detainees would dare complain. Complaints could result in threats of physical harassment. One man said he was living a half-life and that the county officers treated them all like dogs. All the men agreed; they were in limbo.

The officers came into the multi-purpose room where we were talking. After two hours, our time was up. We were supposed to also meet with the women, but for a vague reason the ICE officials told us they did not want to meet with us since we were not legal aid. We wondered what the women might have shared with us. And then, we shook hands with all the detained men and left. I walked out into sunshine and freedom and they walked back into the nightmare of Limbo, waiting.

Set up a tour. Contact your local immigrant ally group. It’s not fun or easy. But it is the right thing to do. The oppression I witnessed is happening in my backyard, a little over an hour from my house. My faith dictates that I shall not ignore it forget it. I am on the side of Love.

In faith,









Rev. Allison Farnum
Minister, UU Church of Ft. Myers

In community and denominational life, Allison currently serves on the board of Interfaith Action of Southwest Florida, an ally organization of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  Rev. Allison is also co-president of the interfaith congregation-based community organizing group, Lee Interfaith for Empowerment (LIFE).

Continuing to Walk Until We Have Compassionate Immigration Reform

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Rev. Susan Karlson gets arrested.

Post author Rev. Susan Karlson and others are arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

Each Thursday, clergy and lay people circle Federal Plaza that houses Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and immigration courts in New York City. We silently pray the Jericho Prayer and walk in solidarity with people who struggle with unjust immigration laws and fear separation from their families. Last Thursday, we continued marching to Varick Street, home of a detention center that brings immigrants in shackles, bound by their hands and feet. At the detention center, others joined us for a rally and eight of us remained in the street and got arrested in an act of civil disobedience.

My decision to act in civil disobedience outside a place that shackles human beings feels linked to all the current events happening around the country directly related to racism. We have immigration laws that criminalize undocumented people no matter how they entered the country initially. Under the current broken system, many undocumented immigrants pay taxes, but receive no benefits or representation. The court decision about the slaying of Trayvon Martin and Stand Your Ground laws deeply trouble many, but people of color live with this every day. The recent Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act abnegates the need for protections around voting rights for people of color.

I might scream about the endless stop and frisk rhetoric from politicians who say we must continue to stop young Black and Latino men. I think about all the enslaved people brought to this country against their will in shackles and now how people are now detained for long periods of time and suddenly deported in shackles to out of the country in shackles, a country they may not remember or have ties to now. It is time to remember the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

NYC Federal Plaza witness

Witnessing for immigrant justice at the Federal Plaza in New York City.

A dear immigration activist friend with the New Sanctuary Movement of NYC asked me to commit civil disobedience. Despite his tireless efforts for immigration reform, he cannot risk arrest because he would be deported. I risk nothing and, in fact, am treated with the utmost respect and dignity, in contrast to the treatment of thousands of immigrants brought to Varick Street. We so desperately need humane immigration reform with a path to citizenship. I hope that our rally and civil disobedience brought more awareness and might hasten the end of this ugly nightmare that undocumented immigrants face.

To learn more about the history and involvement of Unitarian Universalists in the New Sanctuary Movement, click here.

Rev. Susan Karlson is the new Central East Regional Group (CERG) Disaster Response Coordinator, charged with recruiting, organizing and developing partnerships to bring Unitarian Universalist volunteers to all the areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy. On September 1st, she is leaving her ministry at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island in New York where she and the congregation worked on immigration, antiracism, interfaith efforts, and Sandy recovery. Susan has been an active participant in the New Sanctuary Movement since her previous arrest three years ago for civil disobedience around comprehensive immigration reform. She also serves as secretary of the Unitarian Universalist Trauma Response Ministry.

Welcoming Deportees with Open Arms: Support the Release of the Dream 9

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Dream 9 pose at the border.

Eight members of the Dream 9 at the U.S.-Mexico border before the action.

On Monday July 22nd, nine young immigrants (aka the “Dream 9″) arrived at the Nogales, Arizona port of entry with paperwork for humanitarian parole and asylum, requesting to come home to the United States. It was a historic and courageous action to bring awareness to those left out of the immigration reform debate–the millions of immigrant families that have been separated by detention, deportation, and border militarization.

Since then, the Dream 9 have been held in the infamous Eloy Detention Center, a private facility run by the Corrections Corporation of America. In just the past two weeks, they have received widespread national attention. Nearly 30,000 calls and letters of support have arrived from around the country and their nationwide organization, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, has led multiple protests and sit-ins calling for their release . As a result of their effective advocacy, 43 members of Congress and counting have signed a letter to President Obama urging him to take immediate action for their release.

Just yesterday, we received the good news that all nine have passed the first interviews for their asylum cases. But they still have not been released. Please join us today in asking President Obama and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for their immediate release.

You can get involved by calling ICE and the White House, using the script below, or signing the online petition.

“Hi, my name is ____  and I’m from ____ . I am calling to ask that the Dream 9 be released from Eloy Immigration Detention Center in Arizona. None of the nine are a flight risk, and they were all detained trying to come home. Supporters from all over the world are asking for their release, please bring them home.”

ICE (Arizona): 602-766-7028
ICE (DC): 202-732-3000
White House: 202-282-8000

Bringing the Dream 9 home is just the beginning of the struggle they launched from the border. While in detention, the Dream 9 went on a hunger strike to protest restricted access to phone service that limited them from revealing the stories and abuses they heard from the inside. Members of the Dream 9 were also kept in solitary confinement to prevent them from building solidarity with the other detainees. Last week, more than 70 women in the detention center joined the hunger strike–some of whom have been in detention for years. This action further exposes our country’s unjust and deadly immigration and border enforcement policies, such as harsh border security, Operation Streamline, and record detention and deportations. All of this would be made worse by the border militarization provisions in the Senate’s immigration reform bill.

Surrounded by cameras, the Dream 9 arrive at the Nogales port of entry.

The Dream 9 arrive at the Nogales port of entry.

No More Deaths, a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, is proud to be actively supporting the Dream 9. The mission of No More Deaths is to stop the death and suffering of migrants in the southern Arizona desert and we recognize that many of these deaths in recent years are a result of the 1.7 million people deported under the Obama administration. Immigrants with strong ties to the United States are faced with increasingly dangerous border crossings to return to their homes and families. No More Deaths volunteer and Unitarian Universalist Dr. Kat Sinclair worked with the legal team for the Dream 9 action. “As part of respecting the inherent worth and dignity of all people, we should be welcoming our deportee community home with open arms,” Sinclair said.

The core of the struggle for immigrant rights must be led by those directly affected by the injustice. We are honored to support families and community members who are building a movement that is impossible for policy makers and law enforcement to ignore. It provides yet another opportunity for allies to listen to the voices of immigrants and act in solidarity. Even if the Dream 9 are released, thousands still remain in detention or legal limbo–making our commitment to the long-term movement that much more important.

Please help us spread the word! Forward this email to your network, post to Facebook or Twitter, issue a public statement of support from your school, congregation or organization, and keep spreading the word. #BringThemHome

This post was written by Maryada Vallet and Walt Emrys Staton, M.Div. Emrys is a Unitarian Universalist ministerial candidate and Maryada is a public health professional. Both are long-time No More Deaths volunteers and based in Tucson, Arizona.

Who Would Jesus Deport?

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Who Would Jesus Deport? Share/Save/Bookmark Jul 29, 2013

“Who would Jesus deport?” (Credit: Suzanne Grogan)

Several Unitarian Universalist churches in the Seattle/Tacoma area have an ongoing social witness via vigils at the front gate of the Northwest Detention Center on rotating Saturdays of each month. Coffee, cookies, printed information, and caring encouragement and listening are provided to family and friends visiting persons in detention. Two members of Seattle’s University Unitarian Church are also developing a volunteer visitation program for one-on-one visits with persons in detention who request personal visits.

Each of these actions reveals ongoing efforts end bigotry and oppression against people because of their identity. The federal policy is to incarcerate undocumented immigrants for months while they await a hearing, which usually results in deportation. Many of these detention centers are owned and operated by private, for-profit corporations who annually receive millions of tax dollars for warehousing immigrants.

The Northwest Detention Center, the third largest in the United States, can house up to 1,579 persons arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It is owned and run by The Geo Group, Inc., a privately run prison business. The facility is designed for short-term detention, but immigrants are held for an average of 35-60 days and as long as 4 years while defending their right to stay in the United States.

The Fifth Annual Mother’s Day Weekend Vigil at the Northwest Detention Center on May 11, co-sponsored by the Washington New Sanctuary Movement and the Oregon Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice, shed particular light on this injustice.

A spirited gathering of about 200 people was heavily peppered with Standing on the Side of Love shirts, caps, yard signs, and banners. Participants walked the length of the street-side fence singing “Standing, standing, we are standing on the side of love.” Joining in this vigil were numerous Unitarian Universalists from Vashon Island, Tacoma, Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland.

Michael Ramos, director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, reminded us of the need to reform, and ultimately end, the system of raids, detention, and deportation. Last year alone, 400,000 deportations took place and 32,000 persons were held in detention on any given night at taxpayer expense. He said, “This is a shame and a scandal. These are human casualties of a global and a universal phenomenon… Immigration is a human phenomenon, but the barriers, walls, and bars are political. The ultimate family value is to re-unite all families. All this loss, separation, fear, and violence must stop.”

Vigil at the Tacoma Detention Center

Seattle-area Unitarian Universalists gather for the vigil. (Credit: Suzanne Grogan)

Rev. Marian Stewart of Northlake UU Church in Kirkland gave the keynote address, noting that the timing of this vigil coincided with Mother’s Day, which originated in 1870 as Juliet Ward Howe asked all mothers to wake up to the carnage all around, to arise in peace, and to start to care for everyone.

Rev. Marian pointed out that the vigil should focus our attention on the separation of families and the suffering that immigrants are experiencing. She also called attention to the critical importance of witnessing the devastating trauma to spouses and children when families are fragmented by the current detention policies and the need for us to work to get policies changed.

In a ceremony with various participants naming and ringing a bell for each of 131 persons who have died while in immigration custody, she pointed out that the lives of those who have died will not go unnoticed because “we are here today to be their witness.”

Participants heard stories from adult immigrants and DREAMers who shared their thoughts and feelings about the emotional and physical hardships their families have been experiencing. They also spoke of their deep appreciation for those who stand on the side of love, providing encouragement, accompaniment through the legal procedures, and who actively work to get the oppressive policies changed or eliminated.

Interfaith efforts continue in the Seattle metro area to create change in the procedures of local law enforcement officers who arrest undocumented immigrants who may only have a busted tail light or cracked windshield, who have witnessed a crime, or have been the victim of domestic violence. The voluntary transfer of persons into immigration custody who have committed no crime at all or only low level offenses can be stopped if public outcry creates pressure for local authorities to change their procedures.

This post was written by Suzanne Grogan. Susan is a member of Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church in Kirkland, Washington.

Interested in getting involved in similar efforts in your own area? Click here to find your local New Sanctuary Movement chapter and watch our webinar on detention visitation programs.

No Borders, No Bars: Reflections from the Not One More Deportation Open Mic Protest

No Comments | Share On Facebook| No Borders, No Bars: Reflections from the Not One More Deportation Open Mic Protest Share/Save/Bookmark Jul 16, 2013

On a recent Monday night, I stood outside the Suffolk County House of Corrections in Boston, MA, alongside nearly 100 community members and across from the 1,900 immigration detainees that are held at the facility.

It was a powerful moment. As we raised our voices outside in chants and poetry and song, the men inside banged on the windows and held up signs in solidarity. Some detainees communicated directly to their wives, children, and friends, who were standing with us in the crowd, by holding up signs that said, “I love you” and forming their hands in the shape of a heart. Other men used hand motions and scribbled notepaper bearing black penned letters to tell us their “alien” identification number in a plea for connection and assistance.

Community members and detainees share messages.

This communication, across approximately 500 feet over a hedge and a highway service road, was a striking change to the isolation immigration detainees experience from the moment they are picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Each year, 400,000 people are detained by ICE, the grand majority (73%) for nonviolent, often minor, crimes such as driving without a license or for immigration violations such as missing a court date. While detained, these individuals have limited communication with their loved ones – they have to pay out of pocket to make phone calls home and no visits are allowed from friends and family who are also undocumented.

Meanwhile, the detainees’ partners, parents, and children are suffering the pain of separation on the outside. In addition to the emotional impact, many families suffer the loss of their main breadwinner, and the economic impact can be devastating. For many families, the separation and pain continue far beyond the period of detention, as the majority of detainees are eventually deported.

The family of Josué Martinez, detained at Suffolk Detention Facility, participated in the protest.

As I learn more about the reality of detention and the suffering it is causing in my community, I become more and more enraged about the detention-deportation system that my tax dollars are helping to fund. At a price of nearly $2 billion per year, my neighbors and friends are being locked up, meanwhile the prisons that hold detainees and the companies that build detention facilities are making more money with each bed they fill.

While ICE purports to be promoting alternatives to detention programs that allow detainees who are a “low flight risk” to live in their communities while their case is processed, the programs do not go far enough – in Massachusetts we know that elderly and sick individuals are still being held in detention for months and years, and sometimes even being kept in solitary confinement.

Also shocking is the extent to which the detention-deportation system disproportionately impacts people of color, who are more often targeted by law enforcement in their communities, and then funneled into detention through partnership programs with ICE such as Secure Communities.

Sharing songs of solidarity at the open mic protest.

There needs to be an end to this perverse deportation-detention system that is bringing suffering to workers, people of color, families, and children, without making our communities any safer or stronger. The immigration reform bills being proposed now will not change the profit incentive for detention and do not focus on improving conditions for detainees. In fact, the bills include proposals for more harsh enforcement methods, such as $30 billion more for border enforcement and mandatory e-verify programs at workplaces.

More enforcement simply perpetuates suffering. What we need is an inclusive immigration policy that recognizes the U.S.’s role in stimulating the roots of immigration through economic and military intervention, honors the contributions of 11 million undocumented immigrants by providing a reasonable path to citizenship, and increases avenues for safe, legal entry for poor workers abroad.

I remain hopeful that a just future is possible for our communities, if we continue to build power and demand the change we really want from the grassroots level. As we sang our final songs outside the detention facility and waved our goodbyes to the detainees, we could see storm clouds gathering in the distance. We smiled and linked arms, ready to fight for the rainbow after the storm.

Me and my friend Keylin at the protest – just like the butterflies we know that migration is natural and beautiful.

To learn more about the Not One More Deportation week of action and national fast visit:

This post was written by lifelong Unitarian Universalist Juliana and cross-posted from her blog “Not-So-Silent Witness.”