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Coloradoans Call for Dignity, Not Detention

Colorado immigrant worker November 2010
Mario, an immigrant worker in Colorado, speaks about the discrimination he faces in the workplace. Photo: Jennifer Piper / AFSC

Close to a Hundred Community members turn out in support of People not Profits, Dignity not Detention

By Jennifer Piper, AFSC Colorado Interfaith Organizing Director for Immigrant Rights

Aurora, Colorado, November 1, 2010 - People of faith and immigrant rights activists gathered at the GEO detention facility to demand an end to private prisons and detention after NPR reported the story of how the private prison industry lobbies for state level policies that ensure more incarceration of citizens and immigrants and greater profits for the industry.

Jennifer Piper of AFSC welcomed the crowd saying “In Colorado, we have our own SB1070-like policies. In 2006, the Colorado legislature passed the toughest anti-immigrant legislation in the country, forcing our sheriffs and state patrol to act as immigration agents. The for-profit corporation in front of us grosses more than $14 million a year from this center alone, $14 million dollars of your tax money. GEO is the only entity in our community that benefits from these laws and our broken immigration system. We are here today to say we will not forget and we will close this center.”

Mario, a laborer and an immigrant, spoke to the community about the discrimination he has faced at work. “I am not alone in facing wage theft and unsafe conditions at work, in feeling dehumanized, targeted and frustrated. My faith helps me maintain my dignity and the belief that we’ll achieve justice together”

Comunidad Liberación planned the vigil, with the support of AFSC, and UCC Pastor Anne Dunlap led the activities, “We invite the community to join us in laying a flower representing the dead on our altar. Not nameless or faceless to us, they are our neighbors, friends, family members and co-workers. We will remember the detained, the missing, the deported, and the dead.” She also invited the group to celebrate All Saints Day by laying a second flower on the altar and saying aloud the name of a “saint”; someone in their life that have given them strength.

Hundreds of traditional yellow and gold marigolds, used to celebrate and honor the dead, covered the altar as participants spoke the name of someone they know who has suffered under the current system and called upon someone who had supported them as a saint. One participant, Norma, became very emotional, wiping away tears as she recounted the story of her son who was recently picked up by ICE despite his pending visa application. Another woman from Colorado Springs stepped forward to remember her friend who is currently in detention.

Women4women-knitting4peace distributed Peace Shawls to everyone as symbols of hope, healing, and solidarity. Susan, a knitter with the group, invited people to “please keep the shawls and wear them whenever they pray for justice and peace.” Children attending the vigil were offered a Peace Pal (knit doll) as a reminder of their contribution to justice in our community.

Chanting, drumming, and raising their flowers the group of one hundred walked to the front of the center and left their flowers on the bridge entrance as a visible sign of their prayers and energy.