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Methodist Group and Others Protest at Raymondville, Texas

January 19, 2010

via By Nick Braune in Texas Civil Rights Review [This article also appears in Nick Braune’s column in the Mid-Valley Town Crier.]:

On January 9, some 70 people attended a rally/prayer vigil protesting the “tent city” immigration detention center in Raymondville, Texas. It was lively — although I was out of town, I saw a video clip of the event — with vigorous picketing, signs demanding that human rights be respected and calls on the megaphone for an end to the failed, cruel, immigration system.

The event was convened greatly by various United Methodist ministries and teams including the United Methodist Women Immigrant and Civil Rights Initiative. Watching the video, I recognized people joining in from Pax Christi in Brownsville, the Southwest Workers, People for Peace and Justice and Border Ambassadors.

The press release stated, “We call for closure of for-profit detention centers like Raymondville, which have a history of denying basic civil and human rights to immigrants. We call for basic rights for all immigrants.

“We call for an end to detentions and deportations until just immigration reform is in place. The reform should include a pathway to citizenship for migrants in the U.S.; protection of workers’ rights regardless of status; the unification of families, and humane border policies that respect human rights. The Willacy County detention center has had a series of allegations of horrendous conditions and abuse, including alleged sexual assaults on female detainees by guards, reports of detainees being fed rotten food and inadequate food, and poor access to medical and mental health care.”

The press release emphasized a “faith-based” approach, using the Pauline principle that, despite status and nationality differences, humans are fundamentally connected and “when one member suffers, we all suffer.”

I called Cindy Johnson, an organizer of the event and a deaconess for the United Methodist church. I had two questions for her, one about follow-up and one about the response of the guards. Answering the first question, she assured me that her group intends to keep the pressure on Raymondville, on ICE and their private contractors. She has been getting messages from people urging more public events, and smaller events are scheduled hopefully leading to a major one in May. (Johnson also told me she plans to attend the Valley-wide People for Peace and Justice “Gathering” in Weslaco on January 30th, the theme of which is that the fight against the Iraq and Afghanistan War and the fight for immigrant rights are connected.) [Read the rest of the article here.]

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