Prayer Vigil at the Detention Center

By M. Daniel Carroll R. 08-06-2009

I am a seminary professor. Activism is not something that comes naturally to me, but I am learning! Even though I am half-Guatemalan and lived in Central America for 15 years before coming to Denver Seminary, attend a Hispanic church and started a Hispanic program at the seminary, and have written on immigration and speak regularly on the topic, getting involved in community action is new. Last evening was one of my first steps into that world. People I know and care about have been picked up unjustly, so I felt the need to move outside my comfort zone.

I joined a group of people at a street corner just a few yards from the detention center here in Aurora, Colorado. This privately owned, contracted facility has 400 beds, but the expansion to 1,500 beds is almost complete. Situated a block from a main thoroughfare, it is nondescript, a warehouse-looking structure with few windows. The building is set back a bit from the street, tucked in behind some trees, with a sign on the wall that announces simply that this is an "ICE Processing Center." How many thousands drive by that intersection every day without knowing what lies just a few yards away?

As we held up signs calling for immigration reform and family unification, cars and pick-up trucks honked their horns as they went by and gave us the thumbs-up. There we stood, a motley crew: young Anglos from an evangelical church, two Dominican friars, Hispanic mothers with their children, a university professor, several other men and women-Anglo, Hispanic, and African-American, a seminary prof (!), and two activists from the American Friends Service Committee who lead this monthly vigil. We tied ribbons on the chain-link fence with the names of people we know who are detained, stopped a number of times to pray in English and Spanish, and then walked in front of the facility shouting "¡Sí se puede!

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