Community rallies at jail to stop the persecution of migrants
Goshen. Local rabbis call upon the community to stand up to the detention of undocumented migrants in Orange County Correctional Facility. Sheriff's Office says that while border facilities are "overwhelmed," detainees are not being mistreated in Orange C
By Pamela Chergotis
Protesters carrying homemade signs with messages like "Put an end to American concentration camps," "Love thy neighbor," and "Never again!" assembled Monday evening near the Orange County Correctional Facility on Wells Farm Road in Goshen.
They were there to support undocumented migrants seeking refuge, and express their horror at the tactics employed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The protest was organized by the local Jewish community in cooperation with the advocacy group Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson. A band played inspirational songs, like Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up" and the Joelistics' "Not in My Name." Some people sang along, while others kept the beat on homemade drums.
The crowd was squeezed between cones flanking a median strip on the road leading to the jail. They were blocked by the sheriff's department from getting closer. The jail was not visible from where they stood. Inside the jail were many of the detainees the protesters had come to support.
Leading the rally was Rabbi Marcus Rubenstein of Temple Sinai in Middletown, who organized the event with Rabbi Rebecca Shinder of Temple Beth Shalom of Florida, and Rabbi Rachel Rubenstein, executive director Jewish Federation of Greater Orange County. They said that, as Jews, they had a special obligation to "not stand idly by" as others met the same fate they had so often faced in their long history.
"Jews were kicked out of many, many nations," Rabbi Marcus Rubenstein told the crowd through a bullhorn. "We know the pain of being deported, of our families being separated."
He said he's sometimes asked why he keeps saying that ICE hates.
"How do you know what is in their hearts?" he said he's asked. "I don't know what is in their hearts, but I know about their actions, and actions speak louder than words."
He talked about the sight of children torn from their parents and locked in excrement-infested cages on the border.
"We live in the best country in the whole world," he said. Confronted with such cruelty, he said, "are we going to rest in our comfortable houses, in our synagogues?"
The speakers and protestors conducted a call-and-response through the rally. "No!" they shouted to questions like these.
Orange County Legislator Kevindaryán Luján, a member of the Public Safety Committee that oversees the jail, said 140 to 170 undocumented migrants were in the county jail "every single month."
Detainees at the jail
He and the rabbis object to the county accepting money for jailing the migrants, and thereby condoning inhumane practices at the border.
"It feels like we're profiting from suffering," Luján said. "This is about families being separated and destroyed forever, children who will never see their parents again."
In a statement, Under-Sheriff Kenneth Jones said the migrants are being detained according to the law. And that while border facilities are "overwhelmed," the Orange County jail is "one of the most accredited jails in the country."
His statement continues:
"Any person being detained by ICE and housed within the (Orange County Correctional Facility) is there as part of the legal process established by law. Most of the detainees have committed crimes within the United States separate and apart from the crime of illegally crossing into the United States, some are subject to active judicial deportation orders as a result thereof. The OCCF is one of the most accredited jails in the United States and the Sheriff’s Office takes exception to any suggestion that any detainee is mistreated or neglected in any way. The policies, procedures and conditions of the housing have been repeatedly reviewed by independent accreditors with no violations cited over a period of years of operations.
"Every American is or should be aware of the crisis at our southern border. The federal facilities available in that region have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of illegal crossings. The Sheriff’s Office suggests that those persons that are genuinely concerned with the housing conditions of detained persons should be supportive that the federal government chose one of the most accredited jails in the country to house some of their detainees.
"If the Orange County Government chose to discontinue housing federal detainees, it would not result in the release of those detainees. It would result in many detainees being transferred from one of the most accredited jails in the country to a facility that is not so."
Another rally in support of the migrants will be held Friday evening, July 12, starting at the First Presbyterian Church in Goshen and continuing to the jail. Please see related story for more information.
Photos by Pamela Chergotis