Friday, June 20, 2008

Night of 1,000 Conversations...


As I write this, it is shortly after 1 AM. I am camped out in front of the Broadview detention center in Broadview Illinois, a Chicago suburb, with a couple dozen immigrants rights activist. ICIRR, (Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights) is holding an all night vigil outside the detention center to call attention to the increase in raids and deportations over the last year.

The goal of the vigil, called “Night of 1,000 Conversations”, is to get people talking about the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) policy of splitting up families and holding undocumented immigrants for long periods of time in detention centers like Broadview all over the country. ICIRR argues that many of the practices of DHS are violations of the immigrant’s basic human and civil rights. Earlier in the evening, husbands, wives and children of detainees described the anguish of being separated from their family members and their uncertainty over their future. About 150 or so individuals listened to these testimonies and where then encouraged to break into small groups to talk about their own experiences with the immigration system, and what they could to help change DHS policy. They were asked to begin the process of "a 1,000 conversations."

It is now around 1:30 AM and about two or three dozen individuals remain, stretched out on sleeping bags and holding hot cups of coffee, determined to maintain their vigil until 8 AM. Some of the nuns in attendance hold a similar vigil here every Friday. They say detainees are normally brought into the facility around 2 or 3 AM from area jails. We are anxious to see if DHS will chose to bring in new detainees tonight and hope our presence outside the facility may offer the detainees some small sense of comfort.

You can find more photos of tonight’s vigil at…http://s207.photobucket.com/albums/bb5/kronstadt2/ICIRRVigil/

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