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Overnight vigil at detention center

Hundreds of immigration rights supporters will spend the night the federal detention center in Broadview on June 19 to highlight what they say are human rights and civil liberties violations by the Department of Homeland Security.

Coordinated by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, it’s part of a national “Night of a Thousand Conversations” by the Working Rights Group to kick off a campaign to end immigration raids without due process, correct inhumane conditions in detention centers, and get action on the backlog of citizenship applications.

Spokespersons will be available for the media starting a 4:45 p.m., and at 5:30 a group of religious activists will march from Our Lady of Carmel Church in Melrose Park to the Broadview Detention Center (Lexington and Beach in Broadview). A 7 p.m. program will include tetitmonials from immigrants about mistreatment at local facilities, and group discussions will take place after that, and at 9:30 p.m. a candlelight vigil will begin.

Supporters will spend the night in tents and join the weekly prayer service outside the facility at 7:15 a.m. on June 20.

Between 1 and 4 a.m. participants will show solidarity as buses of detainees arrive for processing and in some cases deportation. “Friday is the day they deport the most people,” said Ana Guajardo, ICIRR’s suburban organizer.

Many are being transferred to detention centers in Wisconsin or in McHenry County or far downstate Illinois, said Mehrdad Azuman of ICIRR. According to the Working Rights Group, many detainees are transferred with no notice to their family members or lawyers.

A large proportion of detainees are asylum seekers, Azemun said, and man of them are denied full court hearings due to truncated immigration proceedings instituted in recent years. (A recent report in the Nation shows that legal protections are so weak that thousands of U.S. citizens caught up in sweeps may have been deported since 2004.)

“If you could see who’s in the detention centers, it’s really everybody,” he said. “There are many Chinese asylum seekers, there are Pakistanis and Poles, they’re from everywhere.”

Conditions in detention centers — especially at the McHenry County jail, which DHS contracts with — is another issue. HRG maintains that housing detainees with criminal offenders is inappropriate. Advocates here have focused on the denial of access to religious counseling, recently with a bill to ensure access recently passed by the state Senate; it will be considered in the House in the fall veto session. Nationally inadequate health care has been a major concern, with reports of acute medical conditions being ignored. A couple years ago a woman detainee died in the McHenry facility under “very mysterious circumstances,” Azemun said. Her death was ruled a suicide.

As DHS has concentrated resources on raids, a growing backlog of citizenship applications has accumulated, with hundreds of thousands of potential new citizens now threatened with disenfranchisement in the November election.

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Category: immigrants

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