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Minneapolis Church Stands Up for Detained Immigrants in Their Community

March 2, 2011

Re-posted with permission from St. Joan of Arc Church:

DSC_0224-2optOn Sunday, February 6th, St. Joan of Arc hosted an immigration vigil in front of the Ramsey County Detention Center to show detained immigrants that they are not alone.   The vigil, which is held every first Sunday of the month, is sponsored by the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM) in support of and in solidarity with the immigrants who are detained inside.

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The U.S. government detained approximately 380,000 immigrants in 2009 in a hodgepodge of about 350 facilities at an annual cost of more than $1.7 billion.  (Detention Watch Network)

Nearly 100 supporters were present for the vigil, which usually draws closer to 12 to 20 people.  Many were members of St. Joan’s who braved the cold to show their support for immigrants, with the largest SJA group being the St. Joan of Arc choir. Perhaps the most moving DSC_0206-optmoment of the vigil was when the choir lifted up their voices singing “We Are Not Alone” under the direction of Anna Vagle, and in harmony with soloist J.P. Fitzsimmons.  “We are not alone” was the overall theme of the moving readings and prayers at the vigil (see below for the full text of the prayers/readings of the vigil).

Immigrants in detention, which includes families, undocumented and documented, are alone.  They are denied direct contact visitation, even by their family members, while detained.  (Detention Watch Network)

The vigil also recognized the dignity of immigrants by opening the liturgy with the singing of, “On Holy Ground.”   This was a solid reminder that the ground we were vigiling on, as well as the grounds housing the detained, was all made “holy” by our presence.  Pat Stevens (SJA choir member) wrote and led a litany forDSC_0231-opt immigrants.   As part of the vigil liturgy, the people all had a chance to speak the name(s) of immigrant ancestors and the country/countries they were from.  The vigil closed with the singing of “We Who Believe in Freedom (Justice, Peace)”.

Being in violation of immigration laws is not a crime.  It is a civil violation for which immigrants go through a process to see whether they have a right to stay in the United States.  Immigrants detained during this process are in non-criminal custoday, but held in criminal conditions.  (Detention Watch Network)

Interfaith Coalition has been vigiling outside the Ramsey county Detention Center for about a year and a half.  There is no doubt that the detainees are lifted up by their support.  Detention chaplains have stopped at the vigils and told the group of the inspiration they give.  One brave immigrant came to visit at a vigil after being released to tell the group of the comfort the vigils gave him.

DSC_0215-optThe average cost of detaining an immigrant is approximately $122 per person/per day.  Alternatives to detention, which generally include a combination of reporting and electronic monitoring, are effective and significantly cheaper, with some programs costing as little as $12 per day.  (Detention Watch Network)

Not only do the vigils support the Ramsey County detained immigrants, but they are also a strong statement that detention is not the answer to our nation’s immigration problems.  Our laws are broken and outdated and badly need fixing.  Instead of finding a comprehensive way of fixing our immigration problems, our government has chosen to focus on enforcement-only policies, which includes increased detention.  For more information about the detention of immigrants, go to Detention Watch Network, or Advocates for Human Rights.

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