Vigilers for immigrant rights greet motorists on Peoria Street outside the GEO Immigrant Detention Center in Aurora, Colorado. AFSC helps organize monthly interfaith vigils at the detention center.Photo: AFSC / Gabriela Flora
Advocates Gather in Song and Solidarity in front of the GEO Immigration Detention Center in Aurora, Colorado
By Jennifer Piper, AFSC Colorado Interfaith Organizing Director for Immigrant Rights
More than 60 faith and community members joined together on Labor Day, demonstrating their resistance to the continued detention of workers, mothers and fathers. For over a year, faith and community groups have taken turns hosting the monthly vigil, sponsored by AFSC, creating a community of immigrants and citizens opposed to immigrant detention.
Early in September, the Obama administration announced a change in policy designed to restrict the detention of immigrants who are eligible for a change of status through the courts and who have no criminal history. Advocates from AFSC explained that they have yet to see a written version of the policy, be given any timeline for implementation of the new policy, or a detailed description about regarding who will be eligible for relief from detention.
“We are encouraged that the new policy has the potential to provide relief to many people, but we have a lot of questions about how the policy will be implemented" said Gabriela Flora of AFSC. "We are disappointed to hear news reports that the unions within ICE and the Border Patrol are opposed to the new policy, reportedly because they feel it threatens their job security. But we know that vigils like this one around the country are what pushed the administration to change their policy and are what will push the administration to implement new policies. We invite the community to come out and participate.”
Elsa of Comite en Defensa del Pueblo (CDP) added, “Our community continues to experience daily detentions and deportations, and we are here today to show our resistance to these policies and to fight for our community’s liberty, our right to be free from unjust detention and oppression. We will not rest until all unjustly incarcerated people are liberated.”
Vigil participants held candles and signs like “Honk for Immigration Reform.” As Felipe from CDP welcomed the group and invited them to participate in the movement, his speech was peppered with honking from passing cars on Peoria Street. Singing together, vigilers made their way past the abandoned section of the GEO facility to the new multimillion dollar facility. Two healers led the group in a Mexica blessing and smudge ceremony.
Homero, a founding member of CDP, spoke about the similarities of Geronimo’s life story and that of immigrants today: “Geronimo wanted to be with his family and to use his talents as a healer and counselor. Both the Mexican and US governments persecuted his people and killed his family. After years of broken treaties and violence his spirit of resistance rose up. For years we have heard promises and statements from both parties to end the raids, to provide a path to residency, to work, and to family reunification; instead the police partner with ICE, the state patrol partner with ICE, now Governor Ritter is considering signing an agreement with ICE."
Homero added: "Globalization pushed many of us out of our home countries to the United State and here they persecute us in our cars, at our work, in our homes separating us from our families and our livelihoods until we are no longer safe anywhere. We are tired. We are angry. And we are no longer too afraid to speak out.”
Ignacio from CDP closed the vigil by saying, “True resistance is a culture. It is a collective response to oppression. It is acting out your opposition to something which you disapprove of or with which you are in disagreement. Resistance is what occurs when a whole people arrive at a collective decision to act out their opposition to oppression and repression. This decision might not be calculated. It is the result of a long process during which the conscience of each of us, self affirmation, tradition, customs, foods, language, collective experience, symbols, and many other factors interact and together create the culture of resistance. We can create that culture together.”