From May 28 to June 1, Dignity Not Detention and Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity held the Pilgrimage for a Better Future, an interfaith, spiritual pilgrimage stopping at seven California immigration detention facilities. Free Them All hosted the fifth stop at Chicano Park and Otay Mesa Detention Center on May 30.
The pilgrimage was composed of a bus with a total of 35 participants, including 15 to 19 formerly incarcerated people. The goal of the pilgrimage was to draw attention to “the preventable human suffering caused by immigrant detention in California” and to “take collective responsibility for the rights of immigrants in our state and the needs of rural communities in California facing disparities in wealth and health.”
The pilgrimage first arrived at Chicano Park to participate in a community gathering of music, food, speeches and ceremony. Danza Azteca, an Aztec-based group devoted to preserving ancestral traditions, initiated the opening ceremony and welcomed attendees. Afterwards, participants gathered for food while a local band, Bambula, played music. Before continuing the caravan to Otay Mesa Detention Center, faith leaders and participants from the bus spoke about the various disparities that immigrant communities face.
Onto the Otay Mesa Detention Center
The pilgrimage then continued to Otay Mesa Detention Center. As a local site host, Free Them All focused on the various civil rights complaints toward the billion-dollar private company-run facility, Otay Mesa Detention Center. Core Civic, the operator of OMDC, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, changed its name in an effort to distance itself from various civil right complaints, which include sexual assault, sanitary and hygiene violations and medical neglect.
During the stop at OMDC callers from inside the facility shared what their vision of a thriving community looks like and where government funding should be invested instead of detention facilities. ICE prisoner Hever Alberto Mendoza Linarez recorded a message for attendees, saying, “The money could be invested in hospitals, community clinics instead of detention centers. All of the money generated by this place could be going back to the community to strengthen existing hospitals and create community clinics that are sustained by community members.” He continued, “Migrant homes could be built as well. We work inside the detention centers, cleaning all day, performing a lot of different tasks and we get paid $1 a day, $1!”
Free Them All is a group of organizations and activists in the San Diego-Tijuana area that are committed to closing all migrant concentration camps. FTA participants include Detention Watch, Otay Mesa Detention Resistance, Armadillos Search and Rescue, American Friends Service Committee, the Party for Socialism and Liberation and others.
Follow @FreeThemAllSD on Instagram for updates on the campaign to shut down Otay Mesa Detention Center.