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Daily Journal
     June 30, 2020      #94-182 KDJ

A voice for all: 8.5 miles marched through county

By Tiffany Blanchette

Seeking an end to Kankakee County’s collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, protesters stood outside the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee on Saturday and chanted “No ICE. No hate. No racist USA.”

Organized by three area residents — Katia Villagomez, Leslie Quezada and Isidro Martinez, all of Kankakee — more than 100 people took part in Saturday’s March for Immigrants Rights. They marched 8.5 miles from the Bourbonnais Goodwill store to the detention center, where detained immigrants have been housed since 2016 after Kankakee County entered an agreement with ICE.

In the last 2 miles of the march, heavy rains arrived, letting up just as the group arrived at the facility.

“We’re here today to fight for those that have no voice,” the group echoed as a prayer was offered upon arrival. “We feel rain drops like they are tears, your tears, God. We need equality and justice as you would have it for all of your children.”

In 2019, 223 individuals were transferred to the Jerome Combs Detention Center in Kankakee after serving time at a state facility for their felony convictions at the request of U.S. ICE, according to a press release. All but 19 were listed as guilty of committing crimes.

Katia Villagomez, an organizer of the march from Kankakee, said some of those in detainment are non-criminals and have been in the United States for 10 or 20 years contributing to their community with no infractions other than being undocumented, a $50-250 first-offense misdemeanor.

“When did we lose our humanity?” Villagomez asked. “The color of our skin doesn’t make us illegal.”

Protesters also echoed national demands for ending the detainment of children at the border, chanting the names of immigrant children who have died in U.S. custody and the words “No More Cages.”

One young protester, Joselyn Martinez-Rosas, reflected on the march, saying while it was a long and difficult walk, it doesn’t compare to the families that traveled hundreds of miles seeking safety at the U.S. southern border.

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