CARBONDALE — Immigration activists and advocates will blow their horn Sunday. They are hoping to bring down a wall.
Inspired by the Biblical story of the Battle of Jericho, where the Israelites marched around the city’s walls seven times and blew horns in order to bring them down, The Southern Illinois Immigrants Rights Project is hosting a “Jericho Walk” this weekend to serve as “a peaceful and prayerful walk to bring down the walls of our unjust immigration system,” according to a news release sent Thursday.
This event will come just days after the group hosted an interactive immigration event where participants attempted to navigate the complex process of coming into the United States. Hosted by the SIIRP, the event took place at the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Illinois in Carbondale. Organizers of the event said about 20 to 30 people came to participate.
After arriving, all were assigned roles to play, everything from asylum seekers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Those participating as immigrants were sent through the entire immigration process based on their circumstances. None of it was simple.
Monique House is the finance director at the BGC. However, on Wednesday, she was Rosa. She was coming to the U.S. with her 11-year-old son and found herself separated from him. House said this hit her especially hard because her 7-year-old son is actually gone for the summer.
Diane Spear, a local immigration attorney and a member of the SIIRP, played a familiar role: an immigration attorney. She said from where she sat, there was a lot of learning going on.
“It seemed to be that they deepened their understanding,” she said.
Organizers worked to make the situations as realistic as possible including long wait times and bottlenecks to talk to legal aids.
“I could see on some faces some frustration, some bewilderment,” said Tina Carpenter, BGC director.
Carpenter said even some of her club members participated, which was part of why she said the club agreed to help facilitate the experience.
“With our teens especially, we want them to be engaged in social justice issues,” she said. “I want our kids to be aware and understand, and you can’t understand unless you are in their shoes.”
The Immigrant Rights Project has been spurred to action in recent months and years after what many have described as a human rights emergency on the U.S. southern border. Overcrowded detention centers are holding record numbers of asylum seekers and others wishing to become U.S. citizens.
According to numerous reports from advocacy groups and congresspersons, conditions in the camps are far below the standards expected by international groups and treatment of immigrants has been inhumane. Some reports have revealed some security officers manning facilities suggested those detained drink from a toilet. Reports also detail children being held in cells for days, some without clothes or proper medical care, as well as being separated from their families.
“At the southern border, what we see right now is simply inhumane,” Georgeann Hartzog, a SIIRP member, said Thursday.
She said the events being held this week are all done in an effort to engage the local community in an issue that, despite more than one thousand miles, is affecting many in this community. Hartzog pointed to the large population of immigrants at all stages of immigration living in Southern Illinois. She said the events are also “to draw attention to the appropriateness, to the morality, to the legality of having a humane asylum system.”
After participating Wednesday, and after getting her pretend son back, though with a diagnosis of post-traumatic-stress disorder, House said she was driven to do more.
“I really wanted to get some information on how can I help,” she said.
The SIIRP will be gathering at the Town Square Pavilion at 3:30 p.m. Sunday for a vigil and for speakers before walking to the federal building downtown.