Advocates dedicate Ash Wednesday prayers for detained immigrants

JERSEY CITY, NJ – On Ash Wednesday morning, a group of Christian and immigrant rights advocates gathered near the Statue of Liberty in New Jersey.

Kathy O’Leary of Catholic organization Pax Christi, New Jersey said, “Ellis Island is a tremendous symbol of this myth that our country is a country that welcomes immigrants and that we celebrate our immigrant heritage. And yet within a five minute drive we have over a thousand immigrants in detention.”

Ash Wednesday is a Christian feast day that marks the beginning of the season of Lent.

As they receive the blessed ashes on their foreheads as a sign of penance and repentance, they are protesting the reported inhumane treatment and deaths of undocumented immigrants inside detention facilities.

They are also praying for release of these detained immigrants.

“An immigrant who got caught living here without proper documentation — we’re filling up our jails with people who really should not be punished. People we don’t need to lock up, they’re not a threat to society,” said O’leary.

Immigrant rights advocate Bea Sabino says privately owned detention facilities are benefiting from the arrest of undocumented immigrants.

“The federal government has contracts with the private prison corporations and how they make money of it is the way they have to fill a certain number of beds and they get reimbursed by the federal government,” said Sabino.

Meantime, immigrant rights advocates here are also protesting against the Texas ruling to defer President Obama’s expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that officially starts receiving applications today.

Sabino said, “We’re here to stand in solidarity with prisoners, the inmates, especially the immigrants.  We’re also thinking about our political prisoners in the Philippines, making sure that their rights remain intact.”

These Christian immigrant advocates said that by receiving ashes, they publicly proclaim their intent to die to live in Christ’s image, hoping that owners of these private detention facilities do the same.

You may contact Don Tagala at for more information.

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  • Generoso Magaoay
    18 February 2015 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    In this day and age, i find it hard to believe that immigrant rights advocates are fighting for the very wrong causes on behalf of undocumented immigrants. According to Doctor Gener Acob (FILAM-NY) Kathy O’Leary’s advocacy is idiotic in the sense that it’s advocating and circumventing illegal immigration status as rightful residents in this country.