FUEGO Coalition to hold a gathering to call for an end to ICE collaboration

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FUEGO Coalition will hold a gathering Sunday, May 12 at 4 p.m. in front of the site of the planned new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility to call for an end to the collaboration of law enforcement, public officials, and businesses with ICE.

The event will bring awareness to the planned construction of a new ICE detention facility, which is slated to be located at 282 Neff Avenue in Harrisonburg, with an estimated total construction value of $2,244,309.78.

The building permit, which was issued by the Harrisonburg Department of Community Development on May 8, identified contracts with local businesses Rhodenizer Construction Company, LLC of Dayton, VA, and Miller Cupp Associates, Architects, of Harrisonburg, VA.

“Any institution that works with ICE in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County is complicit in ICE attacks on immigrant families and children in our community, at the border, and in detention centers across the county,” says Boris Ozuna, an event organizer. “ICE has a well-documented track record of human rights abuses, and they have no place in a community that calls itself friendly and welcoming.”

Established in 2003, ICE quickly made a name for itself for its rampant violations of human rights and near absence of accountability. In the last two years alone, 22 people have died in ICE custody, including children. Between 2010 and 2017, more than 1000 allegations of sexual abuse in ICE custody were made, and yet all of the more than 200 jails and private prisons ICE operates have passed every inspection since 2012, even those where deaths have occurred.

“The construction of this facility expands ICE’s hold in our community and increases their capacity to target our community members with raids, detention, and deportation, which is an alarming prospect given our jail’s ongoing collaboration with ICE vis-a-vis detainers,” says Julia Davis, another organizer.

Under Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson’s leadership, Harrisonburg/Rockingham Regional Jail contacts ICE when undocumented individuals are in custody and holds them past their release date on ICE’s behalf, a practice which has been found unconstitutional or illegal by several federal courts. “ICE functions because of the law enforcement, public officials, and private corporations that work with them,” says Eric Olson-Getty. “We are here to say ‘not in our town.’”

The protest is organized by the newly formed FUEGO (Friends United for Equity and Grassroots Organizing) Coalition, a coalition formed by Virginia Organizing and CALIENTE. A coalition united in resistance to the activities of ICE and its negative impact on local communities. Organizers trace their work back to the campaign against the 287(g) program that successfully pressured Rockingham County to cease participating in the program in 2012. More recently, FUEGO provided assistance to the family of the undocumented father of a newborn who was arrested, charged with a misdemeanor, and handed over to ICE custody after his family posted his bond.

FUEGO organizers uncovered ICE’s intention to build in Harrisonburg through a Freedom of Information Act request made of the City’s Department of Community Development. “Under the current administration, we are seeing expansion of ICE offices across the country and felt it was our due diligence to look into the status of the ICE facility in Harrisonburg,” said Julia Davis. Since uncovering the news, organizers have been in contact with members of City Council as well as Miller Cupp, the contracting architect. Wade Robinson of Rhodenizer Construction has not responded to a request to meet.

In a meeting with Miller Cupp Associates, president Dale Cupp expressed concern about ICE’s track record of human rights abuses and admitted that the new facility will expand ICE’s current footprint by around fifty percent, but stopped short of considering terminating the contract.

FUEGO representatives say they intend to continue pressuring Miller Cupp, Rhodenizer, and property owner Bill Neff to reconsider their roles in the project. “A process that has been underway for as long as five years is only beginning to come to light and unfortunately it’s late in the game,” said Boris Ozuna, “but the progress up to this point was possible because it happened behind closed doors, without public hearing or any kind of democratic process. Today, even though the permit has been approved, we are miles ahead of where we were last week because we have the power of knowledge and a community standing up together on our side.”

  • FUEGO’s pledge can be found here.
  • Articles on ICE’s history of rights violations can be found herehereherehere, and here.
  • The ICE facility building permit application can be found here.
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