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Students Lead Vigil to Support Detained Immigrants

Some University of Denver students helped organize a vigil and protest at the GEO Group's for-profit immigrant detention center in Aurora. Credit: Sophia Clark.
Some University of Denver students helped organize a vigil and protest at the GEO Group's for-profit immigrant detention center in Aurora. Credit: Sophia Clark.
November 3, 2015

DENVER – Donald Trump's promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has thrust the immigration debate back into the national spotlight.

On the eve of Election Day 2015, students from the University of Denver tried to shift the focus of the debate back to the people experiencing the impact of the nation's immigration policies.

DU student Adrian Nava helped organize a vigil and protest Monday at the for-profit GEO Immigration Detention Center in Aurora. He says it's easy to forget about families when politicians are pushing hot-button issues on live television.

"It's important to remember that there are people, right now, all over the United States, who are in detention," he says. "They are away from family, away from the safety and comfort of their homes, and are in these places where they're treated horribly in horrible conditions."

Organizers say almost 100 people attended the vigil, which was organized with support from Casa de Paz and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). According to the AFSC, the U.S. deports more than 300,000 immigrants, and holds almost 400,000 in detention facilities across the country – costing taxpayers over $2 billion annually.

The GEO Group is the second-largest private prison operation in the nation. According to its website, GEO oversees about 87,000 inmates at 105 locations across the U.S., South Africa, the United Kingdom and Australia. In 2014, the company brought in revenue of more than $1.6 billion. Nava says the cost of detention to taxpayers is one reason these demonstrations draw diverse crowds.

"It's a wide range of people who are doing it," he says. "It's documented people, undocumented people, people of color, white people, people from different socio-economic backgrounds, different education levels. It's really an issue that a lot of people get behind."

Nava says he hopes Monday's action will help people remember those who are separated from their families by detention center walls the next time politicians push the immigration button.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO