EVANSTON — “When we show support for our brothers and sisters, we encounter the Lord,” Father Augustine Carillo of St. Mary Magdalen Catholic Church said as he finished reading a letter from Bishop Steven Biegler of the Diocese of Cheyenne.
Father Carillo was the first to speak at the WyoSayNo Fiesta De Familias gathering held at Hamblin Park on Sunday, Aug. 18. Approximately 200 people attended the event, coming from Cheyenne, Laramie, Green River, Rock Springs, Bridger Valley and Evanston. Visitors also came from Salt Lake City and Clearfield, Utah, to protest the building of an ICE detention center in Evanston.
Bishop Biegler’s letter stated, “As a Catholic Bishop in Wyoming, I stand against an ICE facility in Evanston or anywhere in Wyoming. We are anti-life if we treat immigrants this way.”
Ana Castro of the group Juntos from Cheyenne spoke next.
“To bring ICE here to Evanston would separate more families; children torn from parents. Wyoming is better than that. This is inhumane, it is unacceptable,” she said.
Sandra Loza from Cheyenne explained that she is a DACA recipient and lives in fear of herself or a member of her family being given a one-way trip out of the country. Loza gave a personal account of coming to the U.S. as a small child.
“One day my mother and I were in a store shopping and an older white man turned to us and said, ‘Bastard.’ My mother said nothing and I was always told to be silent, not to let anyone know I was undocumented.”
Loza said that her parents never spoke up out of fear. She said that speaking up or pushing for change can get one deported.
“It is time to be a voice for the marginalized. The system has failed us. Today, we are here to say no to ICE,” Loza said.
ACLU and WyoSayNo organizer Sabrina King of Cheyenne provided information on the background of the meetings with the city council and county commissioners concerning the ICE facility.
“Even though the local officials here say everyone they talk to is for the detention center, slash prison, that is not true. All the letters received are against it. We will have all the documents on our website,” King told the crowd.
King revealed that MTC, the company that came to Evanston interested in building and operating the facility, has withdrawn from the proposed project. She added that other major for-profit prison companies are now looking to bid. King said that the land for the detention facility has already been transferred from the State of Wyoming to Uinta County.
“Why hasn’t the public been told of this happening? Keep fighting it,” King said, “and not just at an annual gathering like this.”
The next speaker was Tab L. Uno of Clearfield, Utah. Uno is a member of the Tsuru for Solidarity, a nonviolent direct action project of Japanese Americans social justice advocates working to end detention sites and support front-line immigrant and refugee communities that are experiencing injustice and oppression. Tsuru is Japanese for crane. In Japanese culture, cranes represent hope and solidarity.
Uno brought with him two mobiles composed of 2,000 origami cranes which represent peace and compassion and a letter written by Japanese Americans in support of immigrants of today. Uno shared an emotional personal story of his grandparents, who had been interred in Wyoming's Heart Mountain Relocation Center during WWII.
“Seventy-seven years ago, much harm was done to Japanese families who were separated and imprisoned. That harm goes down through the generations. Stop repeating history,” Uno shouted. “No more cages!”
Kristen Knippenberg from Salt Lake City’s “Shut Down MTC Campaign” also spoke at Sunday’s event.
“If they build an ICE facility here in Evanston,” she said, “it will increase the ICE arrests of our friends and neighbors in Utah. We are working to stop the ICE prisons.”
Evanston’s WyoSayNo chair Kortney Clark next gave many reasons why she believes an ICE prison isn’t right for Evanston. Ana Castro acted as Spanish translator as Clark spoke. Clark said the prisons have a lack of adequate health care and people are dying in them, the foster care system here would be overwhelmed and are already stressed with low budgets, and the community of Evanston would gain a negative image.
“I fight against ICE because my husband and I are raising our children to respect everyone. Every family is important and every culture is valued,” Clark said.
Clark then asked if anyone else wanted to speak.
Former legislator Saundra Meyer encouraged people to show up and speak out at the meetings of the city council and county commission.
Martha Black from Salt Lake City spoke in Spanish and English. “No human being is illegal,” she said. “Look around you, we are not alone.”
Pete Bass, a local pastor, talked about the time he was in prison and how bad it can be. He said a prison makes the whole community look bad.
“All these prison companies are only interested in profit,” Bass said. “Do we want to be seen as a prison town?”
Barbara and Pete Roitz from Ft. Bridger said they personally called the Homeland Security office in Utah and told them they weren’t welcome in Wyoming. Barbara told the audience to do the same.
Uinta County Public Health Nurse Manager Kim Proffit asked how people could be more involved and be able to connect.
King and many others responded by suggesting that everyone there should start going to local meetings, connect with each other now and exchange contact numbers, visit the Uinta County Say No Facebook page, where Clark can be reached, and contact WyoSayNo.com.
Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Tab Uno as a member of the Sudo Solidarity Committee.