Advocates speak up, pray for detained immigrants

| January 2, 2013 | 5 Comments
John Joslin, right, a member of St. Stanislaus in St. Paul, and Chris Engen of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis stand in front of the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul. The two are part of a group that sponsors a prayer vigil in front of the center on the first Sunday of each month. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

John Joslin, right, a member of St. Stanislaus in St. Paul, and Chris Engen of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis stand in front of the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul. The two are part of a group that sponsors a prayer vigil in front of the center on the first Sunday of each month. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

As the Christmas season draws to a close, a small but passionate group of people will celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, Jan. 6, by praying outside of a detention center near downtown St. Paul.

The feast day coincides with Immigration Sunday Minnesota, and this group will honor the day by gathering to pray in front of a facility where immigrants suspected of violating immigration laws are detained.

Starting in 2008, Catholic parishes and organizations banded together with other local churches to sponsor vigils on the first Sunday of every month. It just so happens that this month’s vigil coincides with Epiphany Sunday.

Members of this group and other activists say that immigrants often are detained for minor infractions, for unspecified periods of time and given fewer legal resources than U.S. citizens, plus have to suffer the trauma of being separated from their families. Added to that is that many do not speak English.

“These people are undocumented and that’s against the law, but what we’re saying is the punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” said John Joslin, a member of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration, an ecumenical  group that sponsors the vigils each month.

The hosts for the Jan. 6 vigil are the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who helped start up the gatherings. They are also part of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration.

“It began after a woman we had been accompanying was detained there one day short of six months,” said Ginger Hedstrom, a CSJ consociate working in the CSJ Justice Office. “The number of people who were aware that Ramsey County was detaining migrants was minimal.”

This group, hopes to change that by spending a half hour a month visiting the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center during the time period when families and friends are allowed to visit those who are detained. About 50 people come every month, and they hope to show support to the visitors, plus send a message to those inside that there are people who care about them.

Joslin, a member of St. Stanislaus, said he once was nonsympathetic to immigrants, especially those who entered the country illegally. But, he had a change of heart and now is working to create support for detainees.

Hedstrom said: “My view on immigration changes every single time I come into contact with another migrant – coming to know the people who live the story. I hope that in 2013, each and every one of us can make a commitment to get to know at least one migrant and learn their story.”

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Category: Local News