Deaths in ICE Custody: Say Their Names, Again and Again

Ramiro Gutierrez,…Maria Solis-Perez. The names of persons who had died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody rang out at the Tent City candlelight vigil, a witness event at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Justice General Assembly 2012 in Phoenix.

Jose de Jesus Deniz-Sahagun, …. Juan Salazar Gomez. On August 20th, 2015  members of the Puente Human Rights Movement said the names of 152 persons who have died in ICE custody since 2003—at least 30 of the names new, not on the list in 2012. The Eloy Detention Center in Arizona has been the deadliest ICE facility, claiming 14 lives.

Puente and others rallied outside the ICE Phoenix Field Office three months after Jose de Jesus died at Eloy, a death officially ruled a suicide. According to Puente, “there are numerous discrepancies in the story that ICE and CCA have given both his family and the public.” Puente and others rallied to demand answers for the family of José de Jesus and for the community.

Juan Garcia Hernandez. One more added to the grim list. I said his name when I heard of his death, September 14, 2015, at the Florence Detention Center in Arizona, bringing the total deaths in ICE custody to 153 or more.
Amazingly, coming from the detention centers there are as many stories of power, creativity, and survival in spite of incarceration as there are stories of death. I am looking at a beautiful painting of butterflies emerging from a jar. The artist is a woman who is held in detention with men, because she is transgender. When held at the Eloy Detention Center, she made her own paints by saving and mixing bits of orange, green, and yellow substances, adding her sheer resolve as the main ingredient. While we admire the perseverance of the artist we must form our own vision, a vision of all of the detainees emerging from incarceration to live fully and freely outside the walls. We demand an end to all detention. Click here to add your voice calling for immediate action from President Obama.

We say the names of those lost to say that the deaths must stop. And when there is no more detention, we will say their names again, to honor their lives. #‎EndALLDetention. #‎SayTheirNames 

Unitarian Universalists in the Phoenix area continue to partner with the Puente Human Rights Movement. Just this week, UUs showed up when Puente organized protests outside the Courthouse where Sheriff Joe Arpaio is on trial for contempt in the federal racial profiling case against him (see Rev. Peter Morales’ Huffington Post piece about that below). Examples of our participation include routine support of Puente adult members’ participation in the movement by providing children with care and educational and recreational materials. We directly support those at risk of deportation by visiting, providing transportation, and writing letters to detainees. We sign petitions urging prosecutorial discretion that would benefit particular detainees and we write letters to ICE in support of persons we know who are seeking visas. Finally, we urge our congregations and organizations to which we belong to sign petitions that could lead to government action for systemic change,  dismantling the immigrant detention infrastructure, brick by brick.

Click here to support the #Not1More featured action calling on President Obama to take immediate further action in to end detention.

In faith,

Sandy Weir

Immigration Justice Ministry, UU Congregation of Phoenix

P.S. Click here to read Rev. Peter Morales' op-ed on why "It's Time for Joe to Go"