EVANSTON — About 75 adults and children stood for an hour in freezing temperatures beginning Sunday, Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. at Depot Square. The crowd gathered at a candlelight vigil and listened to impassioned speakers protesting the proposal to build an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Evanston.
First to speak was Father Augustine Carrillo of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Evanston. He read a letter from Wyoming Roman Catholic Bishop Steven Biegler. Biegler was quoted as calling the arrest and imprisonment of refugees an immoral act. Father Carrillo offered his own protest against the detention center and ended with a verse from the Bible — Luke 6:31: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Rev. Monica Dobbins from the Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City spoke next. “Even though I live in Salt Lake City,” she said, “hearing that CoreCivic wanted to build a private detention center for ICE disturbed me deeply because I know that it would mean that many of my neighbors would be rounded up and taken away from their loved ones. It would mean more frequent ICE raids on communities that are already fearful, full of families that have been torn apart by our country’s immoral immigration policies.
“In my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, people criticized Dr. Martin Luther King for being an outsider, meddling in business that didn’t affect him personally,” Dobbins continued. “And his answer was: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. If you love mercy and kindness, then we have no alternative but to say no to CoreCivic. We must say, ‘No private prisons in our community.’ There are other ways to bring jobs here without bringing dishonor and death with them.”
Following Dobbins was Rev. Pam Bright from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Evanston who read a letter from Bishop Rt. Rev. John S. Smylie of the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming. Symlie wrote in his letter, “As Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming, I cannot support this proposed method of outsourcing the detainment of asylum seekers and migrants to for-profit companies. I stand in opposition to the establishment of an ICE for profit detention center in Evanston, and anywhere else in our state. I am aware of concerns that these facilities focus on cost-cutting, and have a reputation of being poorly-run and not respecting the dignity and worth of every human being. … The data and the inspections are sobering and cause me to question this potential facility in light of the Great Commandment — to love our neighbors as ourselves.”
Bright added her personal comments. “I feel that all people of faith should come together and proclaim that all migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees are human beings, made in the image of God, and deserve to be treated with respect, kindness and care,” she said. “A for-profit prison is not in keeping with those values. I hope and pray our elected officials will somehow have a change of heart about letting this happen in our community.”
Evanston resident Heather Hronek spoke with passion when comparing today’s imprisonment of refugees to events in history.
“When enslaved people ran away from their masters, they were breaking the law,” Hronek said. “When they crossed the border into the north, they were breaking the law. When they worked in northern cities without papers, they were breaking the law.”
Hronek also painted a comparison of the current political situation to Europe during World War II.
“As we stand here today, steeling ourselves for what could be the ramped-up presence of ICE in our community, I think it’s worth remembering that when the Nazis knocked on the door for Anne Frank and her family, they were upholding the law,” she said. “Anne Frank and her family were the lawbreakers. The Franks were using illegal ration books and had defied deportation orders. God bless Anne Frank’s helpers who saw that these were petty crimes compared to the crimes against humanity of persecuting and scapegoating innocent people.”
Ending the program was translator Lubia Olivas who spoke in Spanish to the crowd.
“We are going through a very sad time in our community,” she said. “We all are torn and are seeing so much hate from people in our community that call our people drug dealers and rapists. We came to this country to give our families a brighter future. We understand how it feels to have a family member or friend in those facilities. No one has a right to tell us how to feel unless you walk in our shoes.”
The vigil ended with a moment of silence and prayer and guitar music by Mack Booth.