“Shine a Light” Campaign Update – “We prevailed!”

After being banned from visiting people behind bars at Krome immigrant prison for more than a year, FOMDD Chair Bud Conlin and Thomas Kennedy, Political Director for Florida Immigrant Coalition, have finally been reinstated as visitors!

ICE banned Bud and Thomas from visiting at Krome shortly after they participated in a peaceful civil disobedience action outside the ICE Miramar office on July 18th, 2018.

More than a year later, the Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to Freedom for Immigrants, who had filed a complaint on behalf of Bud and Thomas, advising that ICE should not ban individuals from visiting those in immigrant prison just for exercising their first amendment right of free speech.

This is a huge win for the Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees visitation program, as well as other visitation groups and individuals who may face retaliation for speaking out against ICE abuses and prison conditions!

9/26/2019 – Bud’s first visit at Krome in over a year, after being reinstated.

“My Visit to Krome Detention Center”

by Meagan Gross

In this short blog post, activist Meagan Gross describes her first visit to Krome immigrant prison on June 30th, 2019.

When I decided to recreate my website and online presence, I didn’t think my first public blog would be about visiting a prison. For a minute I considered not posting this on my blog and sticking to posting my experience on social media, at risk of clients seeing, but we’ve gotten to a point in this country where people need to speak up and show up. This means companies. If there are companies that have a problem withwhat I have to say, after visiting an ICE detention facility today, they’ve lost my interest in working with them.

A friend of mine, Wendy, works with Friends of Miami Dade Detainees. She invited myself and our friend Lindsay to join her for a visitation today at the ICE detention center an hour south of us. We met up at 6am, (yes, those who know me are in for a shock here) and drove down.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Wendy had paired us all with different inmates ahead of time. I was given a sheet that said my inmate’s name and country of origin. That’s it. That’s all I knew. We pulled up and were told we were too early and had to come back. (Yes, I know, I was early to something, another shock.)

So we waited outside until 7:30am. We drove up, they took our IDs, and asked us to pop open the trunk. One guard took a black stick with a mirror and wheels on the end of it and wheeled it all around Wendy’s car. I guess they were making sure we didn’t have anyone else with us.

We came in and went through security. Us three white women stood next to a Mexican woman with her young children. We were all here for the same reason, to visit someone on the inside, yet we were treated differently. Multiple times this woman was asked her immigration status. None of us were. She answered “US Citizen” with her head down.

When they called us in Lindsay and I had pens in our hand. (We were told we could write notes if we needed to) the guards didn’t let us in with them and we were instructed to go to a locker and leave the pens there. We went in and all took our seats in the visitation area and waited for our visitation to begin. Our visitors walked out and sat down. There were walls between us and a sheet of glass in between us and our detainees. The detainees arrived, and my assigned detainee sat down in front of me. He seemed very joyful, and excited to meet me. He sat down and our visitations began.

I’ve never visited a prison before, so to see these people, these human beings, come out in their red jumpsuits, was intense at first. His excitement helped to ease my anxiety. We will call him J. I’ll get back to my visit with J but first I want to share what my friend’s experiences were like.

Lindsay had an inmate that had children of similar age to hers. It was an emotional visit, as the man she was visiting told her his story. He came here from Jamaica and had a visa. He thought he did his paperwork correctly until he applied for a job and was arrested shortly after and detained. His children think he’s traveling for work, because he doesn’t want them to see him in these conditions.

Wendy visited a man from Somalia. He has a visa, is married to a US citizen and was detained for a reason unknown to him, shortly after the travel ban was issued and left for 48 hours in a plane with no air conditioning or bathrooms. He has missed the birth of his child while waiting for his court date.

Going back to J, the inmate I was visiting, he was excited because he was an accepted to a program that will allow him to get back on his feet, if ICE decides he can come out. He moved here from Sierra Leone, in Africa, when he was 12 years old and has never been back. Florida is his home. His family moved here to escape a civil war there. He had no say in the matter. I remember moving from Michigan to Florida at the same age, and making it very clear that it was not my decision. (Seriously, ask my dad, I didn’t speak to him for like a year). J is only a year or two older than me. So we talked a little about that. His family was able to get US citizenship, he was not because he had drug charges as a teenager.

J is locked up in this prison, and they are threatening to deport him to Africa because of weed! A continent where he no longer knows anyone, as his family has all migrated to the states, decades ago. I sat there in my privilege for a minute and it all hit me. I myself, had anxiety last night and took an edible to go to sleep. Never in my life have had the fear that something like that would get me locked up in a prison for years with the threat of being sent to an unknown and unsafe country. All because I was born in a different place than him.

I called my mom on the way home, who carried a green card my entire childhood. She got her citizenship and we both voted in our first election together in 2008. She came here from Ireland when she was 7 years old, for a similar reason to J. The “troubles” in Derry were getting worse and my Granny and Papa packed up and came to the states for a better life for their family. Their story is not much different from J’s, the ending is though.

The detention of immigrants in the United States is wrong and inhumane. We need to continue to share these stories of these people, both adults and children, to help Americans to better understand that these are human beings, living similar to you or I, until ICE comes knocking on their door one day to tear their families apart and ruin their lives. This is not okay.

What can you do to help? 

The organization I volunteered for today, FOMDD, is always looking for volunteers. If you are local to the Miami area, you can contact them to be approved to visit detainees. You may be the only human from the “outside world” that person gets to speak to in months. It’s very easy, and these people are happy to tell their stories and chat with you.

If you are not local to South FL, you can support this organization financially by sending a donation. The funds are used to provide legal assistance to detainees, put money in their phone banks so they can call their family and attorney, send books for them to read, and in their commissary so they can purchase food and toiletries.

https://www.meagangross.com/single-post/2019/06/30/End-ICEolation

Reverend John Guttermann Legacy Award

Freedom for Immigrants is excited to announce the presentation of the 2019 Reverend John Guttermann Legacy Award to Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees in Florida for their outstanding contribution this year to the detention visitation and abolition movement.

Freedom for Immigrants established this award in honor of Reverend John Guttermann, who passed away in December 2016 after a valiant fight with brain cancer. Rev. Guttermann was the founder of Conversations with Friends, a visitation program in Minnesota that was one of the first in the country, and a member of Freedom for Immigrants’ founding Leadership Council.

Each year, Freedom for Immigrants awards the Reverend John Guttermann Legacy Award to one or more outstanding visitation programs. Freedom for Immigrants presented the 2018 Rev. John Guttermann Legacy Award to First Friends, the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, and Sojourners as well as the 2017 Rev. John Guttermann Legacy Award to Conversations With Friends.

Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees (FOMDD) has been a volunteer-run organization for the past five years. Initially founded as a visitation program at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, over the years their work has expanded to include four initiatives. FOMDD supports the immediate needs of detained immigrants by providing money for phone calls, books, connecting with family, clothes for deportation, and at times free legal consultations. For over a year, FOMDD also has helped sustain the Circle of Protection in Miramar, where immigrants are forced to report to ICE. Every week, volunteers stand outside and bear witness to silent raids and inhumane conditions while comforting immigrant community members and resisting ICE. For the holidays, FOMDD helped to organize an amazing party for the children and their parents outside the ICE office. Because of the amazing work FOMDD has been doing, their founder Bud Conlin, has been banned from visiting at Krome, but Bud has spoken out to explain why silence is not an option for visitor volunteers.

“I was honored to take Bud Conlin and the founding team of FOMDD on their first visit to Krome back in 2013. Since then, I have witnessed FOMDD grow into a nonprofit that is dedicated to abolishing immigration detention while supporting the organizing and power-building initiatives of those of who are most impacted,” said Christina Fialho, the co-founder and co-executive director of Freedom for Immigrants. “Rev. Guttermann often talked about providing a ministry of presence. It is beautiful to see his legacy live on in the love, hope, and compassion that FOMDD brings into some of the darkest systems of oppression in our country.”

Congratulations to this amazing organization!

Circle of Protection Toy Giveaway

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Yesterday, December 19th, the Circle of Protection Toy Giveaway outside the Miramar ICE facility was a huge success! It wouldn’t have been possible without all the donations and support we received, thank you! Nearly $2,500 were raised for grocery gift cards along with countless toys for the children. We spread holiday joy and brought the Miramar Commission their coal.

48382164_10216062784435788_2908134377735061504_nYou can see more picture in our gallery or some news reports on our media tab.

 

 

Toy Drive

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Join the Circle of Protection of Miramar on Wednesday, December 19 at 11 am. We will bring some joy to the kids and parents at #Miramar #ICEFacility!!!

Every day hundreds of immigrants come from all over the state of Florida and must check in to this sinister building of ICE at Miramar, they begin to line up at 4 am and must stand outside in the sun, the cold, the rain, without shelter, lack of access of restrooms or access to food or water.

The Circle Of Protection has been documented, we’ve protested and called the media to denounce and bear witness to shed a light on this. Elected Officials and the city of Miramar just put 3 tents 4 benches and forget about these people… they never show up again.

You can help by donating toys and funds for grocery gifts cards.
Here you have some links where you can Donate so we can buy gift cards for the families
www.fomdd.org/donate
https://www.facebook.com/maria.bilbao

You may drop all toys at these locations:

Broward Drop Off
5715 White Hickory Cir
Tamarac, FL, 33319

Miami Drop Off
2800 Biscayne Blvd #200
Miami, FL, 33137

Rhythm for Refuge

Rhythm for Refuge

Join us next Wednesday, November 28th at 8 PM at Churchill’s Pub for a night of music and community. All proceeds go to support the current refugee caravan from Central America.

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$5 Cover + Raffle

All proceeds to:
Pueblo Sin Fronteras http://www.pueblosinfronteras.org/
New Sanctuary Coalition https://www.sanctuarycaravan.org/

“The fascistic behavior of the U.S. is escalating, while the number of forcibly displaced people in the world is increasing. People in this situation are some of the most vulnerable and powerless on the planet and in many cases have been put there by the actions of the U.S. government. With walls being thrown up around the capitalist heartlands, the world being built before us threatens to be a dystopian horror-show and we can’t afford to be passive in the face of its construction. People labeled as aliens are by definition the most vulnerable among us, and If we remain silent while they’re under attack, the battle lines will shift; the pursuers of brain-dead fascist purity won’t stop– and you’re next. Come join the fight back at this benefit. All monies raised will go to Pueblo Sin Fronteras, working directly with the current refugee caravan in Mexico, and The New Sanctuary Coalition acting in solidarity with them.” – Miami DSA

Also brought to you by:
Florida Immigrant Coalition
Fempower
Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees
Students Working for Equal Rights