Bishop Minerva Carcano, Resident Bishop of the Desert Southwest Area, said to the crowd, “Someone asked, “Is this an immigration rally or prison rally? I would say, it’s a Justice Rally.” A few hundreds of people gathered at the Action Rally on Detention and Private Prisons on Saturday, April 28, at the Sail Pavilion of the Tampa Convention Center. People didn’t seem to mind the typical noon-time heat that can be hard to bear during this time of the year in Tampa.
People were in circles holding the sign of “Profit from Pain is INHUMANE – Dignity Not Detention.” They cheered at the passionate speeches by bishops, pastors, and lay people who are involved in the work of immigration and prison ministry. Connie Mella, a woman from the United Methodist Church in the Philippines spoke on the realities of migrants in her country. She challenged global detention policies that incarcerate many migrants in the Philippines. She said, “At least 3,500 people move every day for jobs. At least 6 people are detained every day.” Private prisons are used to detain migrant workers!
At the Rally, a significant step taken by the United Methodist Board of Pensions to add a social investment screen for private prisons was celebrated. A challenge was made for the mass incarceration of immigrant communities of color as well.
A significant action will be taken by the Council of Bishops. Bishop Carcano said, “The Council of Bishops is going to write a letter to all 50 states and Puerto Rico raising the voice against the privatization of prisons.”
I asked Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, Resident Bishop of German United Methodist Church, “Why is this an important issue for us?” Bishop Wenner said, “Immigration is one of the most critical challenges that we as United Methodist are facing right now. It is our Methodist identity to work for justice for those who are forced to leave home. We are called to seek to teach the church that immigrants are a blessing not action on Detention and Private Prisons on Saturday.”
This rally modeled a helpful partnership between different agencies -the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration (of which I am part), the Council of Bishops, United Methodist Women, MARCHA, local churches and some other organization.
Will you continue to help spread the word, “Profit from Pain is inhumane.”