Immigrant rights activist groups protest renewal of GEO contract (PHOTOS)

Categories: Immigration

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Big pics below.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which brings people of various faiths together to work for social justice, peace and humanitarian service, has been holding vigils at the GEO detention center in Aurora each month since May 2009. So supporters were understandably discouraged when Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently renewed and expanded its contract with the private detention center that houses many immigrants. The AFSC, along with several other groups and allies, voiced their concerns at GEO last night.

According to the AFSC, ICE renewed its contract with the for-profit detention center for another ten years and expanded the number of people that can be detained there from 432 to 525.

"I think one of the things it means to us is, we're still seeing the Obama administration say one thing and do another," says Jennifer Piper, Interfaith Organizer for Immigrant Rights with the AFSC. "We see him saying they're not going to detain and deport people who are long-term members of our community and low risk to our community, and in the meantime, we see a contract for detention with this facility expand, which indicates that more people are going to be detained in our communities."

The AFSC claims the renewal means tax payers will continue to give $23 million to GEO each year.

"People need to learn about immigrant detention and the fact that so much of it is for profit and that their tax money is going to line the pockets of companies like GEO to the tune of $130 per day per detainee and that that money could be going to lots of other programs in our country," Piper says.

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Protesters gather to share stories and thoughts.
Speakers at the vigil also lamented the continuing recognition of Columbus Day, which falls on Monday. Attendees each wrote on Post-it notes something they would do to break free from the oppressive conditions they say followed Christopher Columbus's arrival and live on today. They then passed rolls of yarn, so that the entire group was connected, attached their notes to the yarn and then marched to the detention center's entrance. There, the group's members wove the yarn through the facility's sign and trees.

"It's really, really sad to be here with mothers, fathers, sons, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, any people who are crying for people who have been inside," says Pedro, a protester who asked his last name not be used. "It's for nothing. We are safe. We are humans."

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A protester shed tears in front of the GEO detention facility in Aurora.
Among the stories told at the vigil was that of a migrant mother who said her son was physically and sexually abused while in the detention center.

"I think on the immigrant community, the affect of this place is a huge amount of fear and also the feeling that this society rejects them -- that they're disposable to us and all we care about is the work that they do -- and after that, we could care less about what happens to them," Piper says. "Part of the reason for the vigils is to communicate that there is a community of support that doesn't agree with these policies and to provide immigrants with the opportunity to tell their owns stories."

Scroll down for pictures from the protest.

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Protesters share their thoughts.

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4 comments
Dave in LA
Dave in LA

Ok, are you really serious? I'm a Chicano born and raised in Los Angeles. I do believe that alot of this is racially driven and being focused on Hispanics in America. So first off, we have to acknowledge that and admit that a lot of this IS driven by racism. BUT i will say that I agree with the fundamental idea of what this law is trying to do. I agree that if you are here illegally, regardless of any other crimes you may or may have not committed. If you are here illegally then you should be taken back to your country and then you should try to come here legally.Now being the son of an illegal immigrant it's kind of hard for me to say this but I was born here, my mother was born here and her family immigrated here legally from Mexico also. So to me, i'm just as American as many other people here, even the ones who can trace their family back a couple hundred years here in America. But that's as far back as pretty much anyone here can do because all of us except the Native Americans, are all immigrants!!!But the main point here is, if you are an illegal, you should be deported. It costs the US too much money to keep these people here. I also don't understand why they are being kept here. Why is there much of a trial or case going on as to figure out if someone should be deported or allowed to stay.If they're illegal, they are illegal. Period. Now I understand if they overstayed their Visa or something like that but again, that too is illegal. We're not talking bout them so much as we're talking about the ones who have come here illegally and continue to commit more crimes or take advantage of the system. Those people need to be sent back.@3bc42ac8dd5ce15e1fa64ed779557efd:disqus , I have to disagree with your comment. First off, if they came to this country illegally then they've committed a crime. I also doubt that most of those people have been detained "for no apparent good reasons". As an American, the fact that they came here illegally is good enough reason. And lastly, I think it's quite a stretch to say that these migrants are contributing immensely towards the growth of the nation as a whole. It's really quite the opposite.Trust me people, I have illegal cousins, I see what the bad people do and I also see what the good people do. But I'll admit that neither are contributing immensely. I will say though that there are alot of families who's children have grown up and been contributing members of society and have even done some great things in our communities. What we really need to focus on though is this whole privatized law enforcement/detention. The race issue and all that is just smoke and a distractor.We should be asking ourselves, Why is the federal gov't spending millions of tax payers money on private companies to deal with illegal detainees? And why wasn't I given an opportunity to vote on this? Ahh, that's part of the problem and one we have to own up to.I was given the opportunity to vote on it and many other things I don't agree with. But like a lot of Americans, we become complacent in our lives, we don't really care about politics because it's all a bunch of BS. Well, the BS has hit the fan and it's time we start paying attention. It's starts with us educating ourselves and not just watching TV but actually reading the news and stories to find out the real truth behind the matter. Then get out there and vote! But be an educated voter. It aint easy and that's why people don't do it but we love to sit back and complain huh.I'll tell you another reason why, because we've let the corporate entities take control of our systems. And why has that happened? Because there are millions and millions of dollars to be made on all this. Funny how a lot of these companies came about after 9/11. It's no coincidence that privatized law enforcement and the security industry have exploded after 9/11. No pun intended.You really have to delve deeper into these issues and find the real answers as to what's really going on. I mean, who's really benefitting from privatized law enforcement and for profit detention centers?Ok, well first off, the term "For profit" should set off a couple of alarms. A business is a business is a business! Pretty much the only reason to have and operate a business is to make a profit, MONEY!I really don't know of or have seen any kind of business where they do not want to make a profit of some sort.So to me, this is kind of an ethics issue. Is it ethical to run or even allow a company to exist who's purpose is to make money off of the detention of criminals? I understand that many of our facilities are run down and are in desperate need of upgrades. But at what cost?I mean, if it's cheaper to privatize these sorts of services than why does it need to be done by a "For Profit" company? Why can't it be done by Non-profit organizations?These are the questions that really need to be asked and addressed. Does it do us better as a society to have it this way? I think not. 

Isaacsaka53
Isaacsaka53

Thanks   for  showing  this     demonstrations,  Good   and   Hardworking   migrants   are   contributing   immensely  towards  the   growth  of   the  nation  as  a whole  but   have  been   detained   for  no  apparent  reasons.  Kindly  help  us   release   these   good  persons, in  the  name  of  God.    Isaac.

AliceSilver
AliceSilver

Thank you to Westword for helping tell this story.  We'd like to see more coverage, and also by the Denver Post and the television stations. Alice

Sarah
Sarah

Thanks for covering this story. So sad this detention center is here in our hometown. 

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