30 Days of Love: 20/30
Standing with thousands of my fellow Unitarian Universalists on the warm pavement in Phoenix outside Sheriff Joe Arapaio’s “Tent City” detention center, I felt we had found the perfect symbol for what is wrong with our immigration system: a complex that is poorly designed, ad hoc, militarized, dehumanizing and humiliating. The heat was in the triple digits even though it was after sundown, and as our Witness Team leaders in purple shirts handed out ice-cold bottles of water (I drank about 5) I couldn’t help but think that the folks on the other side of the fence weren’t having the same experience. One of the ministers who had toured Tent City earlier that day told me that, though the detained immigrants couldn’t see us across the complex, they could hear us. So I sang loud.
The night of our interfaith vigil at Justice General Assembly was a powerful experience. The pictures from the evening show a sea of gold shirts and yellow electric candles held high, flood lights casting a haunting glow across the crowd. We were there to bear witness to the injustice and human cost of our immigration policies, particularly those of Arizona and Sheriff Joe, and we bore it with as much spirit as I’ve ever seen a group of UUs muster. Standing in the street next to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s complex, we brought attention to the inhumane conditions present at Tent City and to the awful place where our inability, as a society, to deal with the reality of immigration has led us.
Though it may seem like detention centers like these are at the periphery of the debate – with news coverage focused on paths to citizenship, high skill immigrants and the DREAM act – centers like these are the inevitable result of classifying millions of working people in our country as criminals. They embody the “otherness” used to claim that these folks, devoted family members and tireless workers, are fundamentally different from “us,” from the majority of Anglo America, and thus undeserving of a chance at the American Dream. In reality, our immigrant friends and family members are just as much an emblem of American aspiration as anyone I’ve known. That’s why it’s important to shed light on the detention practices going on in our communities, to push back against the otherness and affirm the common humanity that undergird our hope for the future.
February 07, 2013. Move Beyond Borders
Review the “Breaking the Isolation of Immigration Detention: Starting a Visitation Program” webinar
Learn about detention centers in your area