Opposition to Immigrant Detention Centers Mounting

Approximately 100 people convened at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., on Sept. 15, after a weeklong 105-mile march to protest treatment of detainees at the private, for-profit facility operated by Corrections Corpor­ation of America, under contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The rally was organized by the Prison and Jail Project based in Americus, Ga. In general, protesters decried the trend of private prisons making a buck on human misery. Specif­ic­ally, activists criticized subpar conditions at Stewart, as well as the remote, rural locale, separating detainees from families and legal help.

“Imagine the effect [of isolation] on 1,400 immigrant workers unjustly and needlessly locked inside this for-profit prison,” says PJP’s Anton Flores. The center was to house convicts but in the fall of 2006 was converted to house immigrants, many apprehended in armed ICE raids. Though on its website CCA objects to the “myth” that “private prison companies are in the immoral business of profiting from prisons,” the firm also trumpets to investors that its stock rose 51.1% in 2006, giving credence to criticism that prisoners are becoming a mere commodity.

On a related note, October will be an eventful month for activists protesting immigrant detainment in Texas. On Saturday, Oct. 6, the Texas Jail Project, Grassroots Leadership, and Freedom Ambassadors will sponsor a rally outside the Val Verde County Correctional Facility in Del Rio, which houses both prisoners and U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainees.

On Oct. 12-13, Raymondville Walk II will commence in Harlingen on Friday and conclude with a vigil outside that city’s tent prison camp on midday Saturday. According to Jay John-Castro, of Freedom Ambassadors, this prison is “the most repugnant.”

Castro condemns the site of the next event, T Don Hutto Family Residential Center in Taylor – which houses immigrant minors and their parents – as “the most flagrant of all prisons in America, where innocent children are victims of a government without a conscience.” Activists will depart from T Don Hutto Sunday, Oct. 14, and arrive Tuesday at the Williamson County Commissioners Court in
Georgetown. “We will then support local residents as they challenge the commissioners, who signed and renewed the contracts and leases to imprison innocent children,” Castro said. He told the Chronicle he is disappointed by the lack of national television coverage of prior protests; however, local grassroots events will continue regardless.

LULAC National and the Cesar Chavez Legacy Foundation are collaborating with Freedom Ambassadors to hold October’s walks and vigils.

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Immigration, T Don Hutto Family Residential Center, Stewart Detention Center, Texas Jail Project, Grassroots Leadership, Freedom Ambassadors, Raymondville Walk II, LULAC, Cesar Chavez Legacy Foundation

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