|Artwork at Casa Mariposa|
With increased militarization of the border and legislation like SB-1070, the number of immigration detainees has skyrocketed in the past few years. Why? Because there are HUGE profits to be made. Who is profiting? Well, the writers of SB-1070, of course!
Model legislation which was almost word for word Arizona's SB-1070 was written by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Counsel, a "non-partisan" conservative organization. Members of ALEC include the biggest players in the private prision industry, like Corrections Corporations of America, who as a private prison have a vested interest in housing as many people in their facilities as possible, and congresspeople, who can introduce the model legislation and win campaign financing from the huge corporations who are profitting from it. Watch this super short, awesome video that explains it better than I can: Immigrants for Sale.
Every night, an average of 32,000 people are in detention--last fiscal year 407,000 people spent time in immigration detention. see here
Detention facilities are often accused of poor medical care and 122 people died while in immigration detention from 2003-2011. see here (This great Washington Post article reported that most these deaths were occurring to young people: 32 of the 83 deaths in the last 5 years have happened to detainees under age 40. )
While only 8-9% of the U.S. prisons are private, 49% of immigration detention facilites are privately run. (Full disclosure--I have no citation, but learned this from a friend)
The average cost of detaining someone is $122/day. (Imagine that money reinvested in education!) see here
Casa Mariposa/the Restoration Project work in collaboration with The Florence Project, an incredible legal organization in the Middle of Nowhere, Arizona, that serves immigration detainees. They have a project to set up pen pals and visitations to those in detention who need it most and have monthly vigils outside the complex of jails and detention centers that make up Florence, AZ to let those inside know that they are not forgotten.
Monthly vigil at the Pima County Jail in Florence, AZ
Eric and I got the chance to head up to Florence one day in September and visit some detainees there. The man I spoke with was from Iran and had been living in the United States since he was a child. He had residency for many years, but was under threat of getting it stripped due to some minor drinking or drug charge. He was ardently Christian and genuinely feared for his life if he was returned to Iran, where he had not lived for over 20 years. He was arrested in California and that is where all his friends and family reside so no one is able to visit him. For this reason, the social worker at the Florence Project elected him for the pen pal/visitor project. Without previous warning, the man I visited was called for a visit and I am sure he was like, "who the heck are you!?" when he saw me in the booth, but after I associated myself with the Florence Project he opened up and after the 30 minute visit, he kept telling me over and over how nice it was to have someone to talk to. Even though we were only able to visit one person each, it was nice to feel like we may have helped ease the loneliness of those two men for a little while.
I have visited several people in jail and immigration detention and one thing that really struck me was the fact that at this facility I was not even in the same room as the person I was visiting. Just like in the movies, usually a visit involves sitting on one side of a thick piece of glass while speaking through a telephone to the other person on the other side. In this facility, the visitor's chair faced a television screen and a small camera, so the visitor was essentially via skype! The worst thing about this was that you could never make eye contact with the person: you either looked at the camera or the tv screen.
|Pime County Jail where we visited immigration detainees in Florence, Arizona|
Another aspect of Casa Mariposa that we were involved in is called The Greyhound Project. Earlier this spring, it came to the attention of the community at Casa Mariposa that every weeknight, ICE drops off people released from detention at the Greyhound station (usually folks released on bond). Usually this drop off happens between 8:30-9pm and the station closes at midnight. Often, people are able to get on the two busses that leave after 9pm, but if they cannot get in contact with family to purchase a bus ticket or if there are simply not any seats on these 2 busses left, they are asked to leave the station and the employees refer them to the 24-hour Denny's. When Mariposa realized this was happening, they made a committment to be at the Greyhound station every night and offer hospitality to anyone who doesn't make it on a bus. If guests do come back to the house, another community member usually will get up at 5:00am to make a light breakfast, wake up the guests and walk them back to the station about a mile away.
In my time at Annunciation House, I realized the powerful feeling that comes along with being able to open your house to someone in need. It is so intimate, yet such a basic need. Hospitality is incredible work and we were excited to be able to welcome guests into the big beautiful house that is Casa Mariposa, just as the community there had extended us the invitation to stay before we began our bicycle journey. To show our gratitude to Casa Mariposa and our support for the work with detainees, Eric and I made two beds in our time at the house!
|Full bed platform we made for Mariposa!|
|Twin bed we made for guests at Casa Mariposa!|
|Guest room at Casa Mariposa, complete with two beds made by Katy and Eric!|
|The fabulous community of Casa Mariposa: Carol, Kate, John and Rachel|