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Press Advisory: Nov. 19th Vigil to Be Held at Corporate-Run Immigration Detention Center

November 13, 2010

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SHUT DOWN STEWART!  BRING PEDRO HOME!

Lumpkin, GA – Georgia Detention Watch today announced the fourth annual vigil at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA will be held Friday, November 19 at 10 am.  This vigil, co-sponsored by several state and national human rights organizations, draws attention to what organizers call the collusion between government officials and for-profit corporations to place profits and politics over people. The vigil is expected to draw participants from across the United States, including individuals directly impacted by the inhumane detention policies of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the unethical profit-making by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), owner and operator of the facility in this remote location in southwest Georgia.

This vigil will highlight the traumatic effects of detention on the spouses and children of those detained.  One of the featured cases will be that of Pedro Guzman.  Guzman has been detained at the Stewart facility for over a year, while his U.S. citizen wife, Emily, has spent tens of thousands of dollars fighting for justice.  Their case is currently on appeal as Guzman was inexplicably denied bond in this civil matter.

“I never knew that the immigration system in the United States was so outrageously flawed until I began to experience it through my husband,” said Mrs. Guzman. “Pedro is one of the very few fighting his case in immigration detention.  It is a daily emotional fight for him to continue without his freedom.  He is incarcerated in a unit with more than 60 other detainees, no edible food, no privacy, no contact visits with us, being treated like an animal, and 9 hours away from our home.  Most days he feels he can no longer fight.  He qualifies to be here legally but the broken immigration system continues to detain him.  Taxpayers are paying approximately $100 per day to keep Pedro away from me and his four-year old son.”

This action follows prior vigils, humanitarian visitations, and the release of a report by Georgia Detention Watch focused on the Stewart Detention Center.  “The spotlight on this remote immigration detention center is justified as it is the largest in the United States and has a growing list of alleged human rights abuses, including lack of adequate medical care and the imposition of solidarity confinement without a disciplinary hearing,“ says Anton Flores-Maisonet of Georgia Detention Watch.   The March 2009 death of Roberto Martinez Medina, an immigrant detained at Stewart, of a treatable heart infection further accentuated ICE and CCA’s deadly track record and the problematic fact that the facility is located one hour from the nearest hospital.  Additionally, Mark Lyttle, a U.S. citizen with mental disabilities who has a pending lawsuit against the U.S. government and CCA for his wrongful detention and deportation was detained unlawfully for six weeks at Stewart.

“Recently we’ve been hearing reports detailing CCA’s role in lobbying for, and even helping state legislators draft, anti-immigrant legislation.  CCA is interested in the passage of these bills because these measures line the corporation’s pockets with millions in profits. In the meantime, alternatives to detention are available which would protect due process and basic human rights while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars,” said Emily Tucker, Policy and Advocacy Director for D.C.-based Detention Watch Network.

Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director and Chair of Georgia Detention Watch,  and an attorney on the ACLU case filed on behalf of Mark Lyttle said: “Mark’s case is a tragedy that serves to underscore the deep systemic injustices that continue to plague our government’s system of detention, one that involves notorious corporations such as CCA and remote facilities such as Stewart.”

“Mark is just one of thousands of people in this country who have been victimized by a single-minded focus on detention and deportation without the kind of individualized determinations that are the essence of due process,” said Shahshahani.

Emily Guzman, Tucker, and Shahshahani will speak at the vigil.  Catalina Nieto, National Grassroots Organizer for Witness for Peace, will also address those in attendance while Jason Chin, John Fromer, and Francisco Herrera will be guest musicians.

§ About the Stewart Detention Center

Located in rural Southwest Georgia, the Stewart Detention Center detains approximately 2,000 men, primarily from Latin America. Stewart is run by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private prison corporation.

§ The growing list of organizations participating in the November 19 vigil includes:

  • American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia
  • Atlanta Mennonite Fellowship
  • Coalicion de Lideres Latinos-CLILA (Dalton, GA)
  • Detention Watch Network (Washington, D.C.)
  • Georgia Detention Watch
  • Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
  • International Action Center (Atlanta, GA)
  • Nipponzan Myohoji (Atlanta, GA)
  • School of the Americas Watch (Washington, D.C.)
  • School of the Americas Watch Los Angeles (California)
  • Voces de la Frontera (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Witness for Peace (Washington, D.C.)

###

Georgia Detention Watch is a coalition of organizations and individuals that advocates alongside immigrants to end the inhumane and unjust detention and law enforcement policies and practices directed against immigrant communities in our state. Our coalition includes activists, community organizers, persons of faith, lawyers, and many more.

Member organizations of Georgia Detention Watch include: the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, American Immigration Lawyers Association Atlanta Chapter, Amnesty International-Southern Region, Amnesty International -Atlanta local group 75, Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment (ABLE), Coalición De Líderes Latinos (CLILA), Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, Immigrant Justice Project- Southern Poverty Law Center, International Action Center, Open Door Community, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA), and others.

For more on Georgia Detention Watch, visit our website: www.georgiadetentionwatch.com

For more on Pedro Guzman’s struggle, visit: www.logansdad.org

For an exceptional article on Pedro Guzman, the Stewart Detention Center, and immigration court, visit: bit.ly/cHTcXH

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