Miami-Dade County

Report on immigrants in solitary confinement raises questions about our compassion

A new report raises issues about the treatment of immigrants who are detained at Krome and elsewhere and held in solitary confinement.
A new report raises issues about the treatment of immigrants who are detained at Krome and elsewhere and held in solitary confinement. EL NUEVO HERALD

Recently I read a story about the plight of immigrants who are held in solitary confinement at the Krome Processing Center and what happens to them. The report, by The Intercept and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, found that the federal immigration agency has used isolation cells at Krome and elsewhere to punish immigrants for sometimes minor offenses and to segregate certain groups, including LGBTQ detainees and people with disabilities or mental illness.

To say that it is appalling to know that there is so little compassion in the world, that human beings could be so heartless to other humans, is an understatement.

What has happened to us, the America that once opened its arms to receive people who are hurt? The America that once offered a glimmer of hope to the oppressed? Has that kind of national compassion become extinct?

First, we snatch babies and young children from their desperate, immigrant parents, perhaps never to be reunited with them. It’s a way of punishing them for believing Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus,” which is etched on a bronze plate on the Statue of Liberty.

As a teenager, I sang in Booker T. Washington Junior/Senior High School’s famed concert choir, directed by the late Leila Williams. We sang a portion of the poem that was set to music:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Many of us had never been outside Miami, had not had the privilege of visiting New York or seeing the Statue of Liberty. Our young minds did not fathom the meaning of the words of the poem. And so Mrs. Williams explained the poem to us, and urged us to sing the words with the same feeling and understanding that Emma Lazarus must have felt as she penned the poem. Mrs. Williams’ advice never left me.

As I grew up and learned of the plight of my own ancestors, who came here by force, I knew I had the opportunity of growing up as a free and true American. Never mind that life as an African American child was not perfect when I was growing up — at least I was told that being born in America gave me a fighting chance. I believed that. Still do.

With this belief also comes the responsibility of caring about others who are coming behind me, some from the teeming shores of warring African countries, and some from other places where people are still yearning to breathe free.

According to the New Times article I recently read, which cited the report, experts have warned for years “that the use of solitary confinement should be rare and detainees should be released as soon as safely possible. Studies have found those held in isolation almost invariably suffer from anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, depression, and other mental health problems.”

In addition, the story states “solitary time just exacerbates existing mental illness.”

When already oppressed people are forced into solitary confinement for weeks at a time without a thought of how they will be affected, do the people who decide the fate of these “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” understand their plight? I don’t think so.

America, we must change the way we are doing business. We can build the tallest and widest fences in the world, but they won’t keep freedom-loving people away from our borders. We simply must find a way for people to be assimilated into our country in a way that will benefit everyone. We did it before. I believe we can do it once more.

FIVE NEW PRIESTS ORDAINED

When one believes that the Lord has a calling on his or her life, there will come a time when one will have to submit to His will. This seems to be how it was with two of the newly ordained priests in the Archdiocese of Miami. Both Deacon Elkin Sierra and Deacon Martin Munoz Escamilla could have continued in their careers — Sierra as a firefighter/paramedic, and Escamilla as an auto mechanic. But the two men gave up those vocations to become priests. On May 11, they fulfilled their calling and were among the five men ordained as new priests in the Archdiocese of Miami.

priest2.jpg
Elkin Sierra, left, and Martin Munoz Escamilla

Sierra, 54, was born in Miami and graduated from Miami Southwest Senior High school in 1982. He later earned an associate degree in emergency medical services from Miami Dade College. He worked 21 years as a firefighter/paramedic for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, and retired to pursue his calling to the priesthood. He later earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from St. John Vianney College Seminary and completed his seminary formation at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.

Escamilla, 35, left his career as an auto mechanic to study philosophy and pre-theology at the Blessed Diego Luis De San Vitores Institute in Guam. He later entered St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.

The other newly ordained priests are:

priest3.jpg
From left: Jose Enrique Lopez Alvarez, Reynold Brevil and Yonhatan Andres Londono Acosta

Reynold Brevil, 38, who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and joined the Redemptorist Religious Order after he graduated from high school in 2001. He did temporary religious vows from 2006 through 2012, spending time in the Dominican Republic and Colombia. In 2012, Brevil returned to Haiti and graduated with a degree in theology from the Centre Institut de Formation Religieuse. In 2013, he applied to the Archdiocese of Miami. He was accepted as a seminarian and studied at St. John Vianney Seminary. In 2015, he was admitted to St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.

Yonhatan Andres Londono Acosta, 32, was born in Medellin, Colombia, where he attended high school. He came to the U.S. and entered St. John Vianney Seminary in August of 2009, where he earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy. He recently earned a master of divinity degree from St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.

Jose Enrique Lopez Alvarez, 28, was born in Havana, Cuba, and attended high school there before coming to the U.S. He is a graduate of St. John Vianney College Seminary, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy. He currently is working to earn his master of divinity at St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary.

MINISTERING TO THE ELDERLY

The 24th annual Ministering to the Elderly Conference will be from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. May 30 at the Miami Jewish Health Ruby Auditorium, 5200 NE Second Ave.

The keynote speaker will be Jessica Zitter, MD, MPH, a national advocate for transforming the way people die in America. Trained at Harvard University and the University of California San Francisco, Zitter gained skills in critical and palliative care medicine. The author of the book, “Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to Death,” she currently works as an attending physician at a public hospital in Oakland, California. Her work has also been featured in the Oscar- and Emmy-nominated short documentary “Extremis.”

The conference will honor the Rev. Jacqueline Kelley, director of pastoral care at Jackson Health System, with the Clergy of the Year award for her commitment to care for the aging. The conference was organized by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Mishkan Miami: The Jewish Connection for Spiritual Support; Miami Jewish Health, and Jewish Community Services of South Florida. The fee for the conference is $36 per person and includes a kosher continental breakfast and lunch. To register, visit JewishMiami.org, or call 786-866-8621.

LIBERTY SQUARE SCHOLARSHIP PICNIC

All former residents and friends of the Liberty Square Housing Project (now being demolished) are invited to the annual Scholarship Picnic to be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 1 at Arcola Park, Pavilion #1, 1301 NW 83rd St. The event is presented by the Liberty Square Project Friends and Family Reunion, Inc., in an effort to give back to the Liberty Square community by providing scholarships, clothing, food donations, and educational financial assistance to the youngsters of the project.

Phillip Walker was elected president of the organization when it was formed in 2006 and he still holds that position. The organization, which gained its nonprofit status in 2013, has a membership that is 80 percent former residents and 20 percent friends. The group saved the Liberty Square Community Center from being demolished.

Picnic tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children under 12. All proceeds will benefit the organization’s scholarship fund. Call 305-696-1819 or 305-333-8539 for tickets and for more information.

PENTECOSTAL CELEBRATION

In preparation for the annual Pentecostal Celebration, which celebrates the birthday of the Christian church and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on believers, Bishop Walter H. Richardson and the congregation at The Church of God Tabernacle (True Holiness) have begun a month-long noonday prayer vigil, where members pray — wherever they are — for specific spiritual blessings from the Lord and for a closer walk with Him.

On Monday and Friday the one-hour prayer vigil will be held at noon at the church, 1351 NW 67th St. in Liberty City. All are invited, regardless of faith or belief. The Pentecostal Feast (Celebration) will run June 2-9. Services will be at 10 a.m. and 7 p. m. Sundays and at 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. There will be no Saturday services. The community is invited.

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON ALUMNI

The Booker T. Washington Senior High School Alumni Association will celebrate Alumni Weekend May 26-June 1, during which the classes of 1949, 1959, 1969 and 2009 will be honored.

“This is a special time to celebrate our educational experience and our beloved alma mater with many who share one of the most important times in our life — our former high school days,” said Roberta Daniels, the association’s president. “The participation of all classes is very instrumental in keeping our legacy alive.”

The schedule is as follows:

May 26: Alumni worship service at St. Peter’s African Orthodox Cathedral, 4841 NW Second Ave. All classes are invited to attend.

May 30: Meet and greet at 4 p.m. at Calder Race Course and Casino, 21001 NW 27th Ave. The Early Bird Special is $16.95 plus tax.

May 31: Class Day at 6 p.m. in St. Agnes Episcopal Church’s Blackett Hall, 1750 NW Third Ave. in Overtown.

June 1: Alumni picnic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Arcola Lakes Park, 1301 NW 83rd St. at Shelter # 2 on the park’s west side. Serving time is from noon to 1 p.m. Cost of the weekend activities is $30.

For more information, call Daniels at 305-450-2812, or Barbara Burroughs at 305-586-1739.

  Comments