Immigrant Detention in Raymondville, Texas : City With a Frown

Raymondville vigil – raw footage
from Texans United For Families on Vimeo.

Protesting immigrant detention in
Raymondville: ‘City With a Smile’

…we were on our way out when two pickups zoomed up to crowd us closer together. The uniformed drivers then took out shotguns and loaded them in front of us, pointing the guns in our direction. A more burly man in civilian clothes, who appeared to be their boss, told us it would be best for us to leave.

By Jane Leatherman Van Praag / The Rag Blog / October 26, 2009

The evening of October 16, about forty of us visited the Willacy County Prison Complex at Raymondville, Texas, to protest the incarceration of some 3000 immigrant men, principally for the crime of existing without the proper piece of paper and then having the nerve to ask for a trial.

Don’t get me wrong. I have to admit that the place may be full of criminals without papers, but that pesky U.S. Constitution tells me we don’t know that until the locked up individuals have trials. Call me old fashioned.

We had heard that these people were being detained in a “tent city” rather than a normal detention facility. Because one of the immigrants had gone on a hunger strike, he was considered a troublemaker and transferred to the adjacent prison facility, so we included that place on our route.

The Prison Complex is an odd mix of county, federal, and private for-profit lockups. From the county road you first see the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America, the General Motors of private prisons — only more solvent), then the tent city, next the U.S. Marshall’s prison, and finally a county lockup. The tent city is run by a for-profit prison company called Management and Training Corporation out of Utah.

It was very obvious that our tiny group was no threat. Only a few of us wore thin jackets or sweaters, so we had no place to conceal weapons. Our hands were occupied holding up signs and banners. I am 70 years old and there were several other senior citizens among us, as well as an eight year-old girl.

Having marched around the parking lot, we were on our way out when two pickups zoomed up to crowd us closer together. The uniformed drivers then took out shotguns and loaded them in front of us, pointing the guns in our direction. A more burly man in civilian clothes, who appeared to be their boss, told us it would be best for us to leave.

Our leaving was exactly what armed men had interrupted. We asked these three individuals for some identification, verbal or written, but they remained silent so we have no names or badge numbers or even job titles to report. However, we do have this scene recorded as several among us were filming the entire event. We continued leaving after a good five minutes of calling out to the armed men in English and in Spanish that we wanted to know who they were. The uniformed men were Hispanic; the presumed boss Anglo.

I am sorry to report that everything I’ve previously heard about the tent city in Raymondville and the rest of the prison complex there is true. It was like we had been transported to a banana republic except for the water tower touting Raymondville as a “city with a smile.”

Think about it. People are locked up in tents for a status offense in a land of immigrants. A group of very old and very young citizens protest this treatment and are threatened by armed men who refuse to identify themselves in the land of free speech and freedom of assembly. America, please rethink your priorities.

Thanks to Steve Russell / The Rag Blog

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