The R&B singer Miguel on Friday joined activists across the street from the Adelanto Detention Center as they announced a petition urging news outlets to refer to such facilities as “immigrant prisons.”
About 1,000 people later attended a free concert at a nearby stadium headlined by the singer, emceed by the comedian Cristela Alonzo and also featuring the musicians Los Rakas, Ceci Bastida and Buyepongo. Organizers are modeling the petition drive after a largely successful effort several years ago to persuade news organizations to stop using the term “illegal immigrant.”
Miguel (full name Miguel Jontel Pimentel), whose mother is black and whose father is from Michoacan, Mexico, talked about the similarities between what he characterized as the systematic incarceration of blacks and the systemic detention of immigrants, both used for cheap labor. There are about 1,600 detainees housed at Adelanto.
Miguel did not give his specific views on immigration, but said his grandparents came to the U.S. to find work in the late 1960s, when his father was a toddler. He said he wants to learn more about the conditions inside immigrant detention facilities.
“I’ve heard enough to know that something’s not right,” he said. “But I’m here to be educated.”
The concert was presented by Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that wants to end immigrant detention. Executive director Christina Fialho said there were only about 30 immigrants detained on any given day until the 1980s, when two private prison corporations were formed: GEO Group and Corrections Corp. of America.
Both companies run private prisons and immigrant detention centers. At the center in Adelanto, run by GEO Group, three detainees have died since March and six people attempted suicide since December 2016.
Fiahlo said nearly 40,000 immigrants are incarcerated every day across the U.S., the majority of them held in for-profit facilities.
Carlos Hidalgo, a restaurant chain regional manager in Los Angeles, was detained for a year and a half at Adelanto. Hidalgo, who co-authored the petition, said he cleaned and cooked in detention for $1 a day, and was put in solitary confinement for six days for organizing a hunger strike and protesting inhumane treatment.
“These prisons drive you insane,” he said. “If we want to do something about this, we’ve got to call these detention centers what they really are.”