Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hunger strikers at Adelanto Detention Center

I began my Ramadan fast praying for and in solidarity with the hunger strikers imprisoned in Israel/Palestine. By the end of Ramadan, I was praying and standing up for the hunger strikers in Adelanto Detention Center, which is much closer to home--only two hours away, in the desert near San Bernardino. Over 2000 undocumented immigrants who have not committed any crime are being held in detention, and are being treated worse than criminals. Indeed some are being treated worse than animals, according to the wife of a detainee.  Under such circumstances it seems clear that God is calling us to "hunger and thirst for justice"!

Last week I went with 70 + religious leaders and activists to visit and pray with the detainees at Adelanto, but when ICE heard we were coming, they locked us out. We tried to be reasonable and negotiate, we came not to protest but to pray and observe. We offered to stay in the bus while a small group of clergy and lawyers visited detainees, but ICE was adamant and  threatened to take away visiting privileges from all the families who had come long distances, at considerable expense, to visit their loved ones if we didn't leave their property. We were appalled, but not surprised, by this mean-spirited act of retaliation. We left the property, as requested, but the families were still locked out. Despicable.

To read a report of our trip to Adelanto, see https: Adelanto Detention Lock Out of Religious Leaders

I am deeply impressed by the work that CIVIC, CLUE, CHIRLA and other groups are doing around this issue. Today I took part in a press conference, speaking on behalf of the hunger strikers and detainees as a representative of ICUJP. As the son of a Greek immigrant who was undocumented for many years because of our country's xenophobia, I feel immense empathy for my brothers and sisters being held in detention. I remember and take to heart what God tells us 35 times in the Bible: 

"The foreigner residing among you must be treat as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." (Leviticus 19:34).

This is a letter we're sending to the Warden and ICE:

Dear Adelanto Detention Facility GOC Warden and Director of ICE L.A. Field
On June 20th, 2017 in commemoration of World Refugee Day, the Senate’s resolution recognized that “it is a universal desire to live in peace and security and to create a better life for our families and loved ones” and the House of Representatives’ resolution reaffirmed our country’s “… leadership in promoting the health, safety and well-being of refugees … and the importance of welcoming those who want to contribute and build a better life…” Compassion is deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society.   
However, on June 20th, the Adelanto Detention Facility, an immigration detention facility operated by the prison corporation GEO Group, denied immigrants the right to religious counsel, the right to legal counsel, the right to family visitation, and the comfort of visits from caring community volunteers.  Many individuals detained at Adelanto are asylum seekers, who have been persecuted and tortured in their home countries. They came to the United States to seek protection, but instead, but instead, they were imprisoned in a facility that denies them justice.

The Adelanto Detention Facility has long struggled to meet national standards for such facilities; and, it appears that corrective action efforts have not been effective. We ask for an investigation of the following:

·         The cause of immigrant deaths: There have been 10 deaths in immigrant detention nationwide since the start of the current fiscal year, 3 of these deaths occurred within a three-month period at the Adelanto Detention Facility.
·         The assault on nine asylum seekers engaged in a hunger strike, including the use of pepper spray with scalding water.
·         Prolonged isolation of the asylum seekers as retaliation for participating in the hunger strike.
·         Stopping 33 women from continuing a hunger strike with threats of physical violence, misinformation about bail, and false promises of the intent to address their grievances.
·         Immigration bond amount determination: Immigration judges have been setting bonds at unreasonably high levels, effectively denying release to poor immigrants, and ICE has effectively eliminated its internal immigration bond process.
·         Delays in providing medical attention and inadequate disbursement of medication.
·         Infrequency of meals, poor food quality and quantity.
·         An environment lacking human dignity and racial equality.
·         Inadequate storage of personal belongings, and disposal without permission.
·         Access to materials in various languages for detained immigrants who do not speak English.
·         Access to religious services and the ability to pray individually and in a group at all times of day.
We also request an explanation for why ICE and GEO Group denied over 60 faith leaders, attorneys, and community volunteers access to friends and clients in detention on June 20th.   
The results of the investigation on the above listed matters need to be made available to us, state and federal legislators, and the public at large.
Please direct all correspondence to Christina Fialho at CIVIC
Christina M. Fialho
Co-Founder and Executive Director, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)
P.O. Box 40677, San Francisco, CA 94140
The Rev. Canon Jaime Edwards-Acton
Co-chair, Task Force on Sanctuary, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles
Jubilee Consortium, Executive Director
Rector, Saint Stephen’s Church, Hollywood, CA
Rabbi Jonathan D. Klein
Executive Director, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE)
Esther Portillo-Gonzales
Founder and Member, Human Rights Alliance for Child Refugees and Families

David Farley
Francisco J. Garcia Jr.
CC:         Elected Officials (US, State, County, City of Adelanto)                             U.S. Department of Justice
                CA State Department of Justice                                                                     City of Adelanto
Homeland Security                                                                                             US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
                ICE Los Angeles Field Office

1 comment:

  1. Anthony, Thank you for standing up with others for justice and compassion. And thanks for letting us know about these injustices.

    I knew that there had been a strong increase in arresting undocumented individuals (even if they haven't committed any crime), but I didn't know all of these disconcerting facts.