DENVER – A group of 10 bilingual immigrants began offering emotional support this week to undocumented aliens in Colorado detention centers with a program that helps them get in touch with their families.
The program, known as Colorado AID, is a project of the Denver office of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization.
The volunteers are duly trained to provide help on their visits to immigrant-detention sites, the AFSC’s immigrant rights interfaith organizing director in Denver, Jennifer Piper, said.
She said the group’s main objective is “to facilitate communications between detainees and their families, who generally cannot visit them because they are far away or due to problems of their immigration status.”
In collaboration with other local pro-immigrant organizations, Colorado AID also offers legal assistance for detained immigrants, as well as clothing, meals and economic aid for their families.
Colorado AID evolved from a group of demonstrators that since May 2009 has met every Monday night in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Aurora, east of Denver.
The jail, run by the GEO Corporation, recently tripled its capacity at a cost of $72 million, and now holds 1,100 detainees.
“Since 2003, over 100 people have died in immigration detention facilities,” according to the AFSC’s Jordan Garcia.
“The indefinite and costly detention of members of our communities is just one more manifestation of failed militaristic policies,” he said, noting that GEO receives $1.5 million a year in taxpayers’ money.
Piper noted that “clear detention regulations exist” that allow immigrants to have access to lawyers and their families when they need it and expressed her regret that these regulations are not always observed.
The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that as many as 250,000 undocumented aliens live in Colorado, or 5 percent of the total number of inhabitants in the state. EFE