On Tuesday, June 19th, the Pennsylvania Convention Center hosted an event about the American prison system. Juntos was there to raise awareness of the problems that the Latino community faces due to the prison and detention systems in the United States.
Juntos spoke on two separate panels “Immigrant Rights Today: Detention and the Creation of an Exploitable Class” and “The School to Prison Pipeline”
“The School to Prison Pipeline”
Students face many challenges in the school system that can lead to incarceration and even deportation if they are found to be undocumented.
Karla Rojas and Olivia Vazquez from Fuerza, Juntos’ youth leadership committee, told their stories and the stories of the numerous undocumented students in the Philadelphia public school system. According to them, many minority students incorrectly believe that they can’t get into college. As a result, they drop out of high school which leaves them vulnerable to the prison system that was put there to trap them and the possibility of deportation if they are in the country illegally.
There is a 44% drop out rate in the city of Philadelphia and 50% of those students are Latino. Karla and Olivia used this opportunity to spread the word that there is hope and that dropping out of school is not the correct response to a system that is anticipating the failure of its youth. Keeping this in mind, together we can build a better future.
“Immigrant Rights Today: Detention and the Creation of an Exploitable Class”
The panel on immigrant rights discussed the history of policies implemented in the United States that have negatively affected the immigrant population and further stratified the communities. Currently, many bills are being proposed that will impact the immigrant community and make finding work and living conditions even harder for those that are undocumented as well as for those of a lower socioeconomic status.
The panel consisted of Juntos organizer Olivia Ponce and Juntos Community Organizer Zac Steele and Jennifer Guiterrez and Concepción Flores from New Sanctuary Movement. The panel discussed the impact of legislation on the Latino community and gave personal accounts of being an immigrant in the United States.
After the panel presented, groups were formed to discuss the issues and converse about the current state of immigration reform and the prison and detention systems in the United States.
During the panel participants got the chance to view a video called “Immigrants for Sale” about how the prison system is making money on the detention of immigrants in prisons all over the country: