Denver Activists Protest Illegal Immigration Detention
Immigration activists protested at the GEO immigration detention center in Aurora, Colorado last night, February 7th, 2011. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses the privately operated facility to imprison people detained in Colorado.
Members from the Denver Justice and Peace Committee showed up in force, as did members from Politically Active Z students (PAZ), Coloradoans For Immigrants Rights (CFIR) and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Some of the groups are also members of a coalition of groups called the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition (CIRC).
John from the Denver Justice and Peace Committee said the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) helped large companies bent on fierce competition destroy the market for small, independent Mexican and Latin American businessmen. The same politicians who supported NAFTA, which forced migrants to seek a new way of making a living in the US, now want to close the border.
The AFSC is a Quaker organization committed to social justice. They depend upon faith and the power of love to overcome violence and injustice, according to their web page. In 2005, the AFSC started an organization they call Coloradans For Immigrants Rights (CFIR) to help educate the general public.
Jennifer Piper leads a chant for peace
Jennifer Piper, an activist with AFSC, organizes the monthly meeting at the detention center. AFSC says over 300,000 immigrants a year are detained in a secretive web of 350 private and governmental jails at $1.7 billion annually. The Aurora, CO., GEO detention center costs $1.8 million to operate, they say.
Ann Dunlap, a pastor at Comunidad Liberación/Liberation Community, said a new fund has been created for refugees fleeing Arizona after the passage of SB 1070, likely the toughest anti-immigrant law in history. Politicians who supported the law were funded in part by the private prison industry, according to NPR. Thousands of families have left Arizona in search of friendlier places to live. That may not be Colorado, since legislators of the Rocky Mountain state have introduced laws similar to SB 1070.
The activists faced frigid conditions in the face of a snow storm that dumped 8 inches of snow on the metro area. The group marched behind the detention center to hold a vigil. They recited poetry, chanted for the freedom of those incarcerated behind the GEO fence, and prayed. "Dignity, Not Detention" is their battle cry.