Ashley Russell  is an SCM Board Member and SCM Ottawa member. In November, SCM sent Ashley to Colombus, Georgia to attend the annual School of the Americas (SOA Watch) Convergence. These are her reflections on the trip.

We Shall Overcome! A Peace Vigil to Shut Down Stewart Detention Centre

On Friday, November 20, at the School of the America’s Convergence, I attended a workshop Why We Must #ShutDownStewart. Monica asked the participants to share her husband’s, Jose Morales, story. She believes no one knows or cares about migrants. To honour her request, I am sharing their story with you:

The morning Jose was kidnapped, the police knocked at Monica’s front door looking for a man named “Roberto Morales”. Monica informed them that no one by that name resided there. So the police pushed down her door and arrested her husband. A few days later, Monica received a phone call from her husband saying that he was being held at the Stewart Detention Center. A staggering 98.5% of the men detained at the Center are deported. Despite being detained for seven months under the wrong name, Jose was deported to Mexico. Shockingly, we learned that sometimes fake names are used to deport immigrants out of the US.

With Jose’s story of injustice fresh in my mind, I joined 850 people, from across the US and Canada, for the 9th Vigil to Shut Down the Stewart Detention Centre. Outside the SDC,  Anton Flores, the man who started the movement to shut down the Center, spoke about the intolerable conditions where the 1800 men are held. The men are housed in “chicken-coup” like cells, with 65 men to a room and only two urinals. The food at SDC is known for having maggots or for being served undercooked or spoiled. Family visits are rare and “no contact” only. This means that children are unable to hug their fathers before they are deported. Those detained are not well informed about their status, they cannot see their ICE agent regularly, and they are forced to wait up to several months in handcuffs for deportation.

It is under these conditions that individuals detained have looked for ways to resist and protest, such as hunger strikes and work strikes. What else can they do? That morning I attended the march, 11 resisters took direct action and crossed the gate of SDC and were arrested by enforcement police. As I observed their courageous stand for justice, tears ran down my cheeks as the cuffs
were put around their wrists.

Video on the School of Americas – The Empire Files – The U.S. School That Trains Dictators & Death Squads