By Tali Juliano
This Wednesday, The Refugee Alliance and Law Society Club hosted the Immigration Campaigns Coordinator from the ACLU of Colorado, Ana Temu. Temu led an Undocumented Students and Allies Know Your Rights Training and a talk on the ACLU’s Lawsuit against the private prison company GEO Group Inc., which runs the Immigrant Detention Center in Aurora, Colorado.
Students were met with an ACLU table stocked with “Know Your Rights” materials and stickers with slogans such as “Families Belong Together,” “Trans People Won’t Be Erased,” and “Racial. Justice. Now.” Temu gave the training in English and Spanish, stressing the importance of students’ knowledge of immigrants’ rights in both languages.
Temu explained why these “Know Your Rights” trainings are so important to the ACLU’s work, saying, “[they] are the number one way to help empower undocumented folks in the state to defend themselves when they encounter ICE in the community.” More than just surviving, Temu went on to say, “this booklet really came from the need to help people who are undocumented to thrive in this state.”
This training proved valuable to allies of undocumented students as well. “The training was useful because I do know undocumented people and all of this information contains advice that wouldn’t normally be readily available,” said Taylor Hawkins ’21.
Jessica Ramos ’20 pointed out that “being able to name the specific rights is important … especially as I try to become more involved in immigration work as an ally.”
Beyond the logistical situation-based advice of the training, Temu stressed the everyday effect that surveillance from ICE has for immigrants in Colorado. “We have heard from community members that they continue to live in fear because of the practices of ICE within the state. What we want to make sure is that people have the resources and the ability to take control of their lives especially when encountering immigration officers.”
Another large part of the ACLU’s work is furthering immigrants’ rights through litigation. Later on Wednesday, Temu gave a talk on the ACLU’s wrongful death lawsuit against the GEO Group for the death of Kamyar Samimi, who died in custody after two weeks once the nurses stripped him of his access to methadone, which he had been taking for decades. This lawsuit was prompted by the ACLU’s investigative report “Cashing in on Cruelty,” which uncovered the stories of neglect, abuse, and death in the facility.
“We know that two people have died in the facility, there have been numerous quarantines, and that the quality of life within the facility is very low,” Temu explained. “The GEO detention facility in Aurora is completely shrouded in secrecy without any sort of community oversight.”
At the end of the talk, Temu called on students to utilize these stories for action to achieve legislative change in Colorado. The ACLU of Colorado plans to support legislative solutions in the state such as a divestment from the private prison company the GEO Group by state correctional facilities, a fund to provide legal assistance to those who are detained, and, most immediate, an infrastructure in the state for oversight of the conditions within the detention center.
When asked what CC students can do, Temu stressed that “students at Colorado College can maintain awareness of what your community members are going through and make sure that you take that knowledge with you everywhere, whether it’s out in the community standing up against hate, through advocacy and showing up to rallies, or whether it’s through your civic duty to vote, you should make sure that you keep all of your community members in mind.”
If you would like to learn more or know someone who needs these resources, you can find the “Know Your Rights” material on allarewelcomeco.org. If you or someone you know would like to report immigration enforcement activity or someone who has been detained, call the Colorado Rapid Response Network at 1-844-864-8341.