Love Knows No BAN No Walls Vigil at GEO ICE Detention Center

Aurora, CO – The local immigrant community and their supporters held a vigil on Monday, February 6th, 2017 at the GEO Group’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention Center in Aurora, Colorado and Unicorn Riot was live for the event.

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Coloradans for Immigrant Rights and the Colorado People’s Alliance put the call out for the gathering, asking people to join to hear “young people sharing letters to parents who are affected by detention or deportation.

This detention center, the sole one in Colorado, is operated as a private prison. The Boca Raton, FL-based GEO Group (NYSE: GEO) is a “Real Estate Investment Trust” (REIT). Similar to other private prison stocks, GEO’s stock is up 75% since Donald Trump was elected president.

In 2016, at least 70 percent of immigrant detainees in the U.S. were held in facilities that were owned or operated by private prison corporations, and in 2012 90 percent of the beds in the 21 largest detention facilities–including the center in Aurora–were administered by private prison operators.

The U.S. Congress passed a law in 2007 which requires ICE to maintain at least 34,000 detention beds at any given time in order to receive $2 billion a year in federal funding.

Although ICE is receiving billions, the Aurora ICE Detention Center was served a lawsuit in 2014, which accuses them of paying detainees $1 a day to help run the facility.

On February 27th, 2017, the class-action suit was finally certified and will now proceed in representing about 62,000 detainees.

Colorado Federal Judge John Kane is not allowing the class-action to claim that the GEO Group was non-compliant with the Colorado Minimum Wages of Workers Act, but he is allowing the claims that the detention center violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s forced labor provision and that the center had received unjust enrichment because of the plaintiffs’ work at the facility.

According to the Aurora Sentinel, Alejandro Menocal, who spent three months at the facility, worked as a landscaper and food-server.

Brandt Milstein, one of the lawyers representing Menocal, said inmates have to wax floors, scrape floors, do landscaping and clerical work or food service or they risk being placed in solitary confinement.

‘Geo forces the people who are detained there to work,’ he said.”

The class-action is seeking over $5 million in damages.

Nina DiSalvo, executive director of Towards Justice, a Colorado-based nonprofit group that represents low-wage workers, including undocumented immigrants, stated that this lawsuit comes at a critical time; citing President Trump’s newest executive order issued on February 21st, 2017 on the “Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest” (PDF).

The main goals outlined in this executive order include to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants, take away privacy protections of undocumented immigrants, enlist local police officers as enforcers, build more detention facilities, discourage sanctuary seekers, and speed up deportations.

For the eighth year in a row, AFSC will deliver handmade valentines to detention center detainees, day laborers, and people in Sanctuary. The cards will be hand-delivered on Monday February 13th, 2017.

Colorado People’s Alliance took part in this vigil at the beginning of the third week of their 100 days of action during the Trump administration’s first 100 days.

Jonny 5 of the Flobots and NOENEMIES led the group in songs of solidarity with the detained friends and family inside.

However, directly across the street from the detention center, there is a beacon of hope. Casa de Paz is a hospitality home for families affected by immigrant detention. If families or friends are in Aurora to visit a detained loved one and have no shelter, they are able to stay for free at this home. Moreover if a detainee has just been released and has nowhere to go, they can travel across the street and find solace.

Watch full live coverage here:

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