Three days before Father’s Day on a late Thursday morning, some 200 mostly Latino men, women and children rallied downtown near the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center, which houses many undocumented immigrant detainees waiting to be deported. Then, they marched almost 30 minutes to the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, where incarcerated immigrants often enter the county’s legal system for infractions like jaywalking as street vendors or driving without a license to take their kids to school. “What do we want?” called out a young man holding a microphone, staring up at the looming federal detention center. The crowd, strung along Aliso Street, replied, “Stop deportation!” “When do we want it?”“Now!” The June 13 marchers — wearing brightly-colored T-shirts, representing groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the Clean Carwash Campaign, Korean Resource Center and Roofers Local 36 — shouted “Happy Father’s Day” in Spanish and English to their fathers, husbands, sons, brothers, cousins and nephews locked inside the un-jail-like building, except for the barbed Contadina wire topping the middle ornate balconies. Five mariachis serenaded the dads with apropos bittersweet music. “Hopefully, the message gets through to the fathers, to the people who are being detained here, some for many weeks and many months, and some of them who are actually waiting to be deported,” declared Xiomara Corpeno, director of organizing for CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles), a sponsor of the street march plus start-and-finish bookend rallies. “We want the message to be: ‘We have not forgotten you. We will not forget you. We will win immigration reform.’”The overriding theme was “Keeping Families Together,” and passage of the immigration bill being debated in the U.S. Senate the number one priority. Placards read “Immigration Reform for Families,” “Family Unity Now” and “No Justice, No Peace.” Mothers with hovering children held colored photos of their once-whole families. Teenagers and young adults urged drivers to honk as the protest made its way over the 101 Freeway on Alameda Street — and some did, including a Metro bus driver. Past Union Station, Los Angeles Plaza Park and the Terminal Annex, the calls and responses stayed strong. Through a street tunnel, the chants echoed even louder. And then it was up Vignes Street and a sharp right on Buchet to the two-tone sandstone Twin Towers Correction Facility and adjacent high-rise Men’s Central Jail. Together, the massive structures hold 9,500 prisoners.The long snaking walkers were greeted by the mariachis as they shoehorned onto the semi-grassy entrance to the inmate reception center. U.S. and California flags remained unfurled on tall flagpoles. Fighting for familiesFacing tower one, with marchers now bunched around her, the executive director of CHIRLA said it was good to be fighting for “our families,” especially for fathers initially incarcerated in jails like Twin Towers before being shipped to detention centers and probably deported after being criminalized.“We fight against deportation because deportation destroys our families,” Angelica Salas declared. “We hear it over and over again, not just the physical pain, not just the spiritual pain, but also the economic pain. Many of these fathers are the ones working and providing. You know, they put the food on the table; they make sure that our families have a roof over their heads. And also, they’re the ones who make sure that their family is protected.“So when our father is gone, the family is destroyed,” she pointed out. “And that’s why we need immigration reform.”A young mother, clutching the hand of a girl toddler, tried to explain the pain she felt when her own husband was deported back across America’s southern border. But the woman soon broke down crying. An older stooped man in a black baseball cap spoke of his son, who he said had legal status in America but was still deported after committing a minor crime. Then Carlos Olivarez, a so-called “DREAMER” — who was brought to the U.S. by undocumented immigrant parents, but was currently covered by President Obama’s June 2012 executive order temporarily suspending the deportation of qualified young people — summarized his family’s plight. His father was deported in 2009 after being arrested for driving without a license. Because he had no ID, he was turned over to ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and deported. “The same as many other stories, nothing special about it. It happens to thousands of families throughout the country every day, which is why we’re here,” Olivarez observed. “We’re here to tell our congressmen, our representatives that the solution is on their desk right now. It’s in the immigration reform bill that they need to fight for, they need to sign. “Because it’s the permanent solution,” said the young adult. “It’s the solution that we need to stop these deportations. I’m urging all of you to call your representatives and tell them that they need to pass this immigration reform bill. Because families such as mine, maybe yours, we all need it.”Close deportation centersIt certainly was no surprise to the marchers when Clarissa Woo of the Southern California ACLU described current immigration deportation and detention laws as “broken.” But she reported that the situation had reached “crisis proportions,” with more than 43,000 individuals being detained at a cost of $44,500 to $60,000 per detainee every year. And she said that $2 billion spent by the federal government could — and should — be going into education, healthcare and other badly needed community services.“It’s time to close down these deportation centers across the country and treat detention as a last resort, rather than throw immigrants into jail-like conditions,” Woo stressed. “The immigration reform bill that is currently being debated in the Senate contains very important detention reform, such as prompt bond hearings, alternatives to detention and immigration jails, and oversight of our detention facilities.“And as negotiations and this debate continue, we must all be vigilant and stand together to oppose efforts to ‘narrow’ the roadmap to citizenship for all aspiring Americans who have been targeted for this kind of criminal prosecution based on their immigration status,” she cautioned. “This is just not right. And it is critical for us to keep our families together by fighting this fight.”The last speaker was Claretian Father Richard Estrada from Our Lady Queen of Angels (La Placita) Parish, often a first-stop for Hispanic immigrants. He spoke passionately in Spanish: “God doesn’t want families separated. It is wrong to separate families. And we’re here today to pray and do action on behalf of thousands and thousands of fathers who are detained in jails and detention centers run by ICE because of these laws that separate families.”Then he led the marchers in 30 seconds of silent meditation, asking all to touch another to be united in faith and mission. “We’re clear on what we want,” said Father Estrada. “We want the unification of families. Separating families is wrong, and that’s what the current immigration law is. And that’s why we need to get out and work real hard to change it.” {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0621/march/{/gallery}