Tuesday, March 10, 2009

SPVA Members Attend Rally in Farmville to Stop the Immigrant Detention Center

On March 7, 2009, members of Virginia’s immigrant community, along with activists and concerned citizens held a large rally and march in Farmville, Va., to protest the proposed construction of a new, for profit, Immigrant Detention Center.

Background Information About the Detention Center:

Plans for the proposed detention 1,040 bed center were announced in September 2008 by the Farmville Town Council. The center is to be run by Immigrant Centers of America-Farmville LLC (ICA) by contract with the City of Farmville and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICA is a corporation newly created for this project, they have no experience in prison management, it’s principal investors are two real estate developers and the CEO of an industrial bakery supply company. Some of the funding is to come from the Virginia Tobacco Foundation to assist lost revenue from tobacco farming in that area. Other funding has remained secret. The agreement has ICE paying the City of Farmville $64 per detainee/per day and in turn ICA receives from Farmville $63 of the $64. ICA stands to make 8-12 million dollars annually.

The detention center is to utilize staff from Farmville’s other for-profit jail, Piedmont Regional Jail, where two immigrant detainee deaths have already occurred due to medical neglect. ICE has yet to approve the center, the City of Farmville has already approved the plan. Protesters marched to call for the City of Farmville to rescind it’s approval.

Protesters believe that imprisoning people for failed U$ economic and immigration policy is a violation of human rights, and does nothing to address the root causes of mass migration. Immigration violations are a civil offense, not criminal, and do not justify imprisonment. Other options to detention exist, with a high rate of success (93%), and are less costly and more humane. Systematic abuse is documented in every immigrant detention center. The profit motive for prisons is un-ethical, especially considering the profit motive is what causes forced migration to the U$.

Rally Report:

The rally began at noon, Socialist Party USA members from Virginia attended along with immigrants, activists and other concerned citizens. Around 250 to 300 people attended and marched. The event was organized by People United and Mexicanos sin Fronteras, with participation from many other groups (including Socialist Party members in Virginia). Speeches were translated into English and Spanish, with a strong emphasis on human rights and dignity. The first speaker pointed out that most folks called immigrant, latino, or Hispanic are actually native Americans and should feel proud to be considered as such. Most of the speaking was decidedly anti-capitalist and centered around U$ economic policy, prisons for profits, and worker’s rights. All of the speeches were well received. A couple of musical acts and a puppet show were offered to the crowd.

We began the march around 3:00, Farmville police kept a watchful eye, but generally were respectful to the marchers and made sure that traffic was stopped for marchers crossing the streets. Organizers ran “security” to make sure that nothing got out of control, and mainly to ensure that protesters stayed on sidewalks and didn’t provoke onlookers or police. The town of Farmville is quite small (population 6845), while townspeople surely had feelings about the detention center, it must have been quite mind blowing to see 250 people, mostly latino, marching up Main Street and chanting in Spanish- “Farmville Escucha, Estamos en la Lucha” and “Aqui Estamos y No Nos Vamos y Si Nos Echan Nos Regresamos!”. Onlookers seemed generally friendly to the cause, it was the first warm day of the year, and plenty of people were out on the tiny main street. The march turned off of main street and went through what looked like a poorer part of town, past some churches, and back onto Main Street. The rally ended with much partying and dancing. Socialist Party members managed to distribute pamphlets about opposing the detention center, and listing the SP-USA platform on immigration. At the end of the day, a coalition was announced called the Virginia Immigrant Peoples Coalition, formed of the various groups attending and organizing the event, including the Socialist Party members in Virginia. We look forward to working with these folks and to following up on our opposition to the detention center.

For more information visit

The People United

Mexicanos sin Fronteras

Below is information from SP-VA pamphlet on the subject.

The Socialist Party in Virginia supports The People United’s campaign to Stop the Detention Center for these reasons:

Imprisoning people addresses only the effects of a failed immigration policy and is a violation of human rights.

Neo-liberal policies concerning unfair trade, U.S. corporations, multi-national corporations, and business globalization are the main contributors to poverty in other nations, and thus to migration to the U.S.

Conducting raids in the middle of the night in immigrant communities does nothing to address the root causes of mass migration.

Physical and mental abuse in immigrant detention facilities is common place. Detainees often are held for unreasonable amounts of time before deportation.

Because of language barriers and fear of attracting ICE attention, family members have little contact with detainees. Contact with the outside world, and even prison officials is limited to the point where systematic abuse becomes the norm.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is partnering with the City of Farmville to build this facility. A no-bid contract has been granted to a private corporation- Immigration Centers of America which was created solely for this project.

ICA has no experience in detention.The main investors, responsible for management of the center, are real estate developers and the CEO of a bakery supply company. These people are investing in human detention, and stand to make a lot of money off of the deal. ICE will pay Farmville about $64 per day, per detainee. Farmville, in turn will pay the private corporation, ICA, about $63 per day, per detainee. It is estimated that ICA stands to make between 8 and 12 million dollars annually.

Running prisons for profit is un-ethical and a violation of human rights. The profit motive, by definition, would have detainees held for much longer times than necessary. Cutting costs in the center earn the investors money, but lead to sub-standard food and inadequate medical care, among other things. Big money in turn helps ICA to lobby lawmakers for harsher sentences, and more detainees.

Immigration, from the Socialist Party USA platform:

The Socialist Party works to build a world in which everyone will be able to freely move across borders, to visit and to live wherever they choose.

We recognize the central role global capitalism plays in forcing the immigration of people from the less developed to the more industrialized countries, often leading to further economic and social injustice.

1. We support secular democratic states, assuring equal rights to every citizen and resident in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

2. We oppose the militarization of the United States/Mexican border, and an increase in the service budget instead of the "military" budget of the INS.

3. We defend the rights of all immigrants to education, health care, and full civil and legal rights and call for an unconditional amnesty program for all undocumented people. We oppose the imposition of any fees on those receiving amnesty.

4. We call for an end to the use of "secret evidence" in deportation hearings, a ban on all immigration detentions and military tribunals, and full due process and habeus corpus rights in U.S. courts for all non-citizens on U.S. territory or in U.S. custody.

5. We demand an end to police raids in areas where immigrants congregate.

6. We oppose "guest worker" programs. We call for full citizenship rights upon demonstrating residency for six months.