The vigil, the second of its kind within the past year, will call for the immediate closure of the detention center located in Livingston, Texas, 75 miles northeast of Houston.
The demands come as part of a broader campaign initiated by a national coalition of organizations known as the Detention Watch Network. The group’s “Expose and Close Campaign” has worked to highlight the immigrant detention facilities it deems to be the most flawed. The Polk facility ranks near the top of their list.
The 2012 study, based on 20 one-on-one interviews with detainees and conversations with the facility’s staff, highlights deficiencies in areas ranging from cell conditions and medical care to labor exploitation and solitary confinement.
“Most of the men there are in small, eight person cells”, says Piper Madison, Texas organizer of Grassroots Leadership. “There’s no natural lighting, there’s no privacy. They spend up to 23 hours a day in the same 600 square feet with seven other people”.
On a larger scale the coalition hopes that the campaign, and events like the one taking place Saturday, will pressure lawmakers to decrease the number of deportations and detentions of immigrants and ultimately pass comprehensive immigration reform. According to the coalition’s website, 1,500 immigrants are detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) every single day, a trend they equate to “systematically tearing immigrant families apart”
According to Piper, the vigil has been scheduled one day before Father’s Day to emphasize that very sentiment.
“We chose [this date] to highlight that the immigrant detention system breaks up families. We would love to see immigration reform that values both the human dignity of immigrants and the integrity of families in our country, regardless of documentation status”
The coalition expects to have around 100 community members from the Austin and Houston areas. There are no set dates for future demonstrations, but Piper seems confident that the efforts will continue. “This is our second protest outside of Polk and we are going to keep doing whatever we can until it is closed. We’re not planning on giving up after this.”