Coloradoans hold monthly vigils in support of immigrants outside the GEO Detention Center in Aurora, CO.Photo: AFSC / Jennifer Piper
Faith and community groups protest lethal use of force by Border Patrol; Demand accountability for deaths on the border
By Jennifer Piper
[Aurora, CO, July 5, 2010] – The American Friends Service Committee and community partners held a vigil and protest today to demand accountability and transparent investigations into the deaths of Anastasio Hernández Rojas and Sergio Adrián Hernández, two migrants killed by Border Patrol agents last month.
In only six months, US Border Patrol policies have directly resulted in the deaths of 17 people, twice as many as the last two years combined. Despite the fact that fewer immigrants are crossing the border, more are dying in the process. Deaths on the border rose to 417 in 2009 and appear set to exceed that number this year.
As national guard troops are deployed to the border this month, advocates are concerned that the lack of accountability and further militarization of the border will result in still more loss of life and reduced community safety.
“Both Anastasio and Sergio’s deaths could have been avoided; both incidents represent an overwhelming and inappropriate use of lethal force in response to unarmed people” stated Jennifer Piper of the American Friends Service Committee. “For over a year now AFSC and partner organizations have been requesting information on how Border Patrol agents are trained. The Obama administration has yet to release any information to the community.”
Dozens of people walked behind brightly decorated coffins and then gathered together as United Methodist Pastor Peg Newell opened the vigil “As people of faith, we stand beside those who are marginalized and lift up their voices. The solution to our broken immigration policy may be complex. How I feel called to be in community with our immigrant sisters and brothers is not.”
Alonzo Barron explained to the crowd “We gather here today to remember and celebrate these lives which were cut short by our broken and inhumane immigration system and to demand accountability for them and for our communities.”
As people laid flowers on the coffins and read the names of the dead, K, who wished to remain anonymous, told the crowd “We cannot remain silent and invisible in our homes any longer. Each day new policies are passed which threaten to separate our families, threaten to detain us, and threaten our very safety. It is time for us as a community to invite our friends, to invite our families, to stand together and shout 'No More!'”
The crowd signed petitions asking the Obama administration to implement training, accountability and transparency policies for Border Patrol and to share those policies with the public.
Jordan Garcia of AFSC agreed and explained why the vigil was held in front of the GEO detention center “Since 2003, over 100 people have died in immigration detention facilities. The indefinite and costly detention of members of our communities is just one more manifestation of failed militaristic policies. Taxpayers give the GEO Corporation $1,533,000 a year while violations of basic rights to due process and human rights divide our communities and our families. We want to see energy invested in building paths to just and humane immigration reform instead of continued family separation”.
The American Friends Service Committee has held monthly actions at the immigrant detention center drawing up to 240 people for the last 15 months. The group demands a halt to the expansion of the facility and educates the community about the detention of immigrants.
Jennifer Piper, Interfaith Organizing Director for Immigrant Rights
American Friends Service Committee
0ffice: 303.623.3464 ext. 5
901 W. 14th Ave. #7,
Denver, Colorado 80204