Activists protest immigrant detention center

Margarita Pineda, 52, knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the immigration impasse. When she was 22, she spent a month and a half in a Texas penitentiary after immigration agents arrested her when she tried to secretly cross the Mexican border.

On Oct. 9, she participated in a demonstration to support foreigners detained in Newark, New Jersey.

Pineda and her husband, Rafael Turcios, joined approximately 80 activists and residents during the protests of the 14th Annual Protest Rally and March organized by IRATE and First Friends, which aims to pressure Essex County to suspend its agreement with ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) to detain hundreds of foreigners.

The participants denounced the poor treatment, limited visitation rights, and pollution during the three-mile walk towards Delaney Hall on Doremus Avenue, an industrial region that has been christened the “chemical corridor” where detainees are currently housed.

Essex County has increased its capacity to house up to 1,250 immigrants, the result of an agreement to receive 230 foreigners in October. County administrators called the agreement a “money making machine.”

“This decision by Essex County based solely on money is immoral. The county is profiting by tearing families apart and at the cost of the humiliating experience of detention,” said Frank Costanza, a member of IRATE and First Friends. In recent years, the demonstration was held in front of the Elizabeth Detention Center.

Although she suffered no physical injury, Pineda said that being detained was a traumatic experience. “I wasn’t treated badly, but I didn’t have the freedom to move,” she said.

The participants in the protest walked through the streets of Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood, where the Portuguese-speaking portion of the population is concentrated, and headed towards Delaney Hall, the private penitentiary. Outside, relatives and friends of the detainees, like Darlene Diaz, a 28-year-old resident of Woodbridge, New Jersey, applauded when they arrived.

“They are human beings,” said Diaz, who visited her boyfriend in the morning. “I think that they would be treated better if they were criminals.”

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