Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ash Wednesday Pilgrimage from Ellis Island to the EDC 2-22-12 : Kathy O'...

Please stand in solidarity with us & sign the petition to stop the expansion of immigration detention in NJ and revoke the ICE contract in Essex County


Pilgrims Marched from the Footbridge to Ellis Island in Liberty State Park to the Elizabeth Detention Center for the 3rd Consecutive Year on Ash Wednesday.

Jersey City, NJ- Beginning at 10 am on Wednesday, February 22, members from over two dozen faith based, community and immigrant rights groups, including members from Pax Christi NJ, IRATE & First Friends, American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program- Newark and NJ Advocates for Immigrant Detainees, gathered in Liberty State Park, just off Freedom Way, in front of the footbridge to Ellis Island for a press conference and prayer service before beginning a 12 mile “pilgrimage” that ended at the Elizabeth Detention Center.

Organizers site their outrage over 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 and a lack of transparency in the county jails and the private detention facilities that now hold over 2000 individuals on any given day, as the driving force behind the event. Adding to their outrage is the fact that the increase in the number and the size of the facilities is being driven by financial concerns rather than human rights. NJ recently became home to a second for-profit facility which incarcerates immigrants who are in immigration court proceedings when the Essex County Executive signed a contract with ICE and the Essex County Freeholders approved a sub-contract for immigration detention with the politically connected firm, Community Education Centers, which operates Delaney Hall.

Participants began with Ellis Island, a powerful symbol of our country’s ideals of valuing the contribution of immigrants, and walked between the sites that they say are at the root of the misery caused by the current immigration system and prison privatization. The sites include the Essex County Correctional Facility, the ICE Field Office, and the Wells Fargo branch on Broad Street. Organizers site Wells Fargo’s investment in private prisons as the reason for adding the bank branch to this year’s route.

Pilgrims witnessed with various faith traditions along the way by stopping at Assumption/All Saints Church, the Al-Ghazaly School, Temple Beth-El and St. Stephan’s Grace Community ELCA.

Organizers note that since Essex County signed the contract with ICE to expand immigration detention to 1250 people this past fall, Essex County has been in the news almost constantly with the stories of hardship that immigration detention is causing to local residents and their families.

The pilgrimage was the third annual event of its kind held on the Christian feast day of Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, 40 days of penance and repentance that are marked by prayer, abstinence and corporal works of mercy. The theme of this year’s event was “For Sandals & Silver”. It is a reference to a quote from the book of Amos from the Hebrew scriptures: “Because they hand over the just for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; they trample the heads of the destitute into the dust of the earth, and force the lowly out of the way.”

The event was co-sponsored by: IRATE & First Friends; Pax Christi NJ; AFSC Immigrant Rights Program - Newark; Wind of the Spirit; Felician Sisters of North America; Casa Esperanza; St. Joseph Social Service Center; Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless; Reformed Church of Highland Park; Passaic County Coalition for Immigrant Rights; Hudson County Brotherhood/Sisterhood Association; Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry - NJ Synod; NJ Lutheran Immigration Task Force; St. Stephan's Grace Community- ELCA; Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth; Franciscan Sisters of Peace; Community Church of NY, Action for Justice Committee; Witness Against Torture; Sisters of St. Joseph of Chestnut Hill; Ironbound Community Corp.; Jornaleros Unidos de Passaic; Action 21; NJ DREAM Act Coalition; Haiti Solidarity Network of the Northeast; Middlesex County Coalition of Immigrant Rights; NJ Advocates for Immigrant Detainees

The facebook event is archived here:

And the press release from which this information was taken is archived here:

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