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Faith Community Begins Lenten Campaign “Lamenting” Treatment of Immigrants with 12 Mile Pilgrimage

Day of Action to Highlight Issue of Immigration Detention

(Note: Maryknoll Affiliates of New Jersey, Philadelphia and Red Bank are co-sponsors)

JERSEY CITY, NJ—Over 100 People of faith and immigrant rights advocates from over 30 different organizations across the state of New Jersey and New York are expected to gather at Liberty State Park in front of the foot bridge to Ellis Island on the Christian feast day of Ash Wednesday, March 9th at 9:30 A.M. for a press conference and interfaith prayer service before walking 12 miles to the Elizabeth Detention Center to draw attention to the suffering that is inflicted on immigrants their families, and the communities in which they live by the U.S.'s current immigration and detention policies.

This day of action is the second annual event of its kind, and is intended to highlight the differences between our nation's history of welcoming immigrants, symbolized by Ellis Island, and today's harsh realities for immigrants. "Ellis Island was once referred to as the 'Golden Door'. It is a far cry from the barbed wire fences at the gates of the Elizabeth Detention Center," said Margaret White of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of NJ.

The pilgrimage is the opening event of a statewide Lenten Campaign to "Recognize the Human Value of Immigrants" called "Lament, Compassion, Solidarity & Conversion". As a coordinated part of the event, people of all faith traditions are being asked to gather at their local house of worship or elsewhere in their home community throughout the six weeks of Lent to Lament our country's current immigration policy, show Compassion for the suffering of immigrants, act in Solidarity with immigrants and pray for a Conversion of hearts so that comprehensive, humane immigration reform can be enacted. The campaign will culminate in a Migrants Way of the Cross in Newark on April 22nd (Good Friday).

WHAT: Press conference, interfaith prayer service, pilgrimage walk to Elizabeth Detention Center, vigil

WHEN: March 9th 9:30 a.m. (press conference and interfaith prayer service); walk ends at the Elizabeth -Detention Center at IRATE & First Friends 13th annual Ash Wednesday prayer vigil at 6:00 p.m.

WHO: Over100 people of faith, including clergy and lay leaders and immigrant & human rights activists.

WHERE: Liberty State Park, in front of Ellis Island foot bridge (press conference and prayer service); Assumption/All Saints Church; the Islamic Center of Jersey City; the Essex County Correctional Facility; St. Stephan's Lutheran Church; the Immigration Court Building; ICE Office;.Elizabeth Detention Center (end of pilgrimage and site for vigil)

On Wednesday, the pilgrims will make their way through Jersey City and Newark, stopping along the way at Assumption/All Saints Church, the Islamic Center of Jersey City, the Essex County Correctional Facility, St. Stephan's Lutheran Church, the Immigration Court Building, and ICE Office. The trek will end at 6:00 pm at the IRATE & First Friends 13th annual Ash Wednesday Service at the Elizabeth Detention Center.

Each "pilgrim" will carry the name of someone who has died in detention, to restore humanity to those whose dignity was denied by our broken system.

Organizers are particularly concerned about the planned expansion of detention beds in NJ and inhumane immigration enforcement actions citing the following examples: According to ICE estimates over 1600 immigrants are being held in NJ in the Elizabeth Detention Center and local county jails with plans to build a new 2700 bed facility next to the Essex County Correctional Facility in Newark. ICE's 'Secure Communities' program which organizers say subverts due process and leads to pretextual arrests could be implemented any day in NJ and the US government has resumed deportations to Haiti despite the continuing cholera epidemic.

Wednesday's program will underscore the human value of immigrants who the event's organizers say are needlessly suffering under a system that is badly in need of both oversight and an overhaul.

"One of the great misunderstandings about our immigration system is just who is affected," said Amy Gottlieb, director of the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program, referring to those caught up in ICE raids, facing deportation proceedings and languishing in immigration detention. "They are the spouses and parents of US citizens. They are primary breadwinners and caregivers, workers and consumers. They are members of vibrant communities which they help to sustain" concluded Gottlieb

Craig Phipps of Casa Esperanza and one of the organizers of the day's events explained what was behind the cohesion of such a diverse group of participants, "We are from varied faith traditions and secular organizations, but we all believe in justice. It is with much regret that we acknowledge that our country, a country of immigrants, supports laws and policies that separate families, and jail people who pose no danger to society simply because they came here seeking a better life."

Participants will wear white, a widely recognized symbol of hope. "For now we lament what is, but we have faith and hope in what can be." said Sr. Kay Coll.

The pilgrimage is the continuation of a series of action that began in September 15, 2009 with the "We Are One Human Family" statewide vigils which took place at 11 locations in ten communities across New Jersey and most recently with the "Let My People Go" vigils protesting immigration detention and ICE/police cooperation.

Wednesday's event is co-sponsored by: Action For Justice of Community Church of New York, Unitarian-Universalist; American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Immigrant Rights Program Newark; Benedictines for Peace;Casa Esperanza; Community of Friends in Action; Detention Watch Network; Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless; Families for Freedom; Franciscan Sisters of Peace; Haiti Solidarity Network of the Northeast, Highland Park Reformed Church, The International Institute of NJ; IRATE & First Friends; Ironbound Community Corp.; Justice Alliance Network – NJ; Justice & Peace Ministry – Church of the Presentation; Justice Office of the Sisters of Mercy of the Mid-Atlantic, LALDEF (Latin American Legal Defense & Education Fund) Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry - NJ, Maryknoll Affiliates of NJ, Red Bank and Philadelphia; Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights; NJ Advocates for Immigrant Detainees; NJ Forum for Human Rights; New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC; Peoples Organization for Progress - Bergen County Branch; The New School's Global Migration Group; Passaic County Coalition for Immigrant Rights; Pax Christi NJ; St. Joseph Social Service Center, The Shrine of Saint Joseph; Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, NJ; Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia; Social Responsibilities Council of the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood; Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of NJ; Wind of the Spirit


Rev. Gene Squeo (English) 201-207-0112

Br. John Skrodinsky (English & Spanish) 973-896-0444 


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