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2/13 in #NJ: Clergy, Faith Leaders & Activists Gathering on Ash Wednesday to Repent the Sin of Imprisoning Immigrants for Profit

February 12, 2013

***PRESS RELEASE*** [see contacts at end of post]

Art by Ernesto Yerena via

Art by Ernesto Yerena via

Day long series of events to begin in front of the bridge to Ellis Island and in sight of Statue of Liberty

New Jersey– Beginning at 10 am on Wednesday February 13th, people from across the New Jersey and New York representing over a dozen faith based, community and immigrant rights groups, including members from IRATE & First Friends, Pax Christi NJ, Wind of the Spirit, American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program- Newark and NJ Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, will gather for the fourth year in a row in Liberty State Park in Jersey City in front of the bridge to Ellis Island and in sight of the Statue of Liberty to repent the sin of immigration detention. This is the beginning of a day long series of events called “No More Silence! Awake to Justice!”

Who: Community & faith leaders, immigrant rights activists, community members, recently released detainees and friends and family members of current detainees. Including: The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church; The Most Reverend Thomas A. Donato, DD, Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark.

What: Vigils repenting the sin of immigration detention and the silence from the community that allows the deaths of people in detention to go unrecognized and makes it acceptable to profit from the separation of families and the exploitation of the thousands of immigrants in detention in conditions that place them at risk of psychological and physical harm.

Where & When:

  •  Jersey City– 10:00 AM, Liberty State Park (on the Hudson River Walkway, in front of bridge to Ellis Island)
  • Hackensack– 12:00 PM, Town Green corner of Main St. & Court St.
  • Newark– 2:00 PM, Hall of Records, 456 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Blvd. (marching to 970 Broad St and then to St. Stephan’s Church 8 Wilson Ave. for a brief prayer service)
  • Newark– 4:00 PM, 354 Doremus Ave. – Delaney Hall, Essex County Jail complex, East Side of jail parking lot and Delaney Hall
  • South Kearny – 5:00 PM, Hudson County Correctional Center, jug handle median at intersection Rte. 1 & 9 (TRUCK) North and S. Hackensack Ave
  • Elizabeth– 6:00 PM, Elizabeth Detention Center, 625 Evans St.

Participants will travel to Hackensack, Newark and Kearney to highlight sites of suffering for immigrants and their families. The day will culminate with at the annual vigil at the Elizabeth Detention Center, the for-profit facility operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) where ICE first started incarcerating immigrants in NJ almost two decades ago. This will be the 17th year that the vigil will be held in Elizabeth.

Gene Squeo a member of the board of Pax Christi NJ explained why it was both appropriate and important to gather on Ash Wednesday, “We come to lament the injustice done to our brothers and sisters who are being harshly punished and to cry out to God. We know that God hears the cry of the poor, but we also know that detainees in NJ continue to cry out while our county governments profit from their pain and our community does not yet hear them”.

Speaking about recent developments in Congress, Lorna Henkel, the president of the board of trustees for IRATE & First Friends said, “Even though politicians in Washington seem committed to comprehensive immigration reform we see no signs that the federal government will reduce its reliance on a ballooning, financially wasteful and inhumane system, and there is no incentive for local governments in NJ to put the well being of immigrants in detention and their families above the revenues that incarceration generates.”

Organizers note that despite the history of immigration detention in New Jersey which includes a myriad of cases of abuse, including a number of shocking deaths, a culture of secrecy there are no enforceable standards of care and no real oversight. “Families are separated, people are abused and sometimes they even die in detention. We feel morally obligated to speak out and if we cannot abolish mass immigration detention we must establish a way for members of the community to monitor conditions and end the silence and the secrecy,” said Diana Mejia, co-founder of Wind of the Spirit.


The event is co-sponsored by: IRATE & First Friends; Pax Christi NJ; Action 21; American Friends Service Committee – Immigrant Rights Program, Newark; Casa Esperanza, Felician Sisters of North America; Wind of the Spirit; Office of Peace, Justice and Ecological Integrity for the Sisters of Charity of NJ; St. Joseph’s Social Service Center; Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, CEUS; NJ DREAM Act Coalition,; Anakbayan-USA; St. Peter’s University Social Justice Program; Haiti Solidarity Network of the Northeast; Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill; Monmouth County Coalition of Immigrant Rights

About IRATE & First Friends

IRATE & First Friends currently coordinates visitor programs and provides detainees with writing materials, books and other assistance at four of the seven New Jersey facilities holding immigrants suspected of immigration violations. In cooperation with other organizations, it also helps provide post-release assistance to asylum seekers. For more information on IRATE & First Friends programs and efforts to improve conditions while working to end arbitrary mass detention go to:

Directions to Vigil Site inside Liberty State Park

Directions to the park

The GPS coordinates for the parking area are:

N 40 degrees 40.284’

W 074 degress 2.770’

If entering the park from Johnston Ave (Audrey Zapp) turn right onto Freedom Way immediately before sign for Liberty Landing Marina and travel .2 miles before turning left into the parking lot. If entering the park from Black Tom Road (Morris Pessin) turn left on Freedom Way and travel 1 mile on Freedom Way and turn right into the parking lot. Walk past the playground and picnic area toward the Hudson River Walkway. For a map of Liberty State Park follow this link


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