Photographic Exhibit At The Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, NJ
The exhibit was a moving visual presentation of the horrific conditions endured by asylum seekers, detained in maximum security detention centers for no other reason than trying to gain freedom from oppressive conditions in their countries of origin.
Changes to our nation’s immigration laws were enacted in 1996, after the Oklahoma City bombing, which was committed by American citizens. As a result, thousands of immigrants and asylum seekers are today detained in maximum-security prison-like detention centers with no bond, and no access to counsel.
One such detention center is in a converted warehouse in an industrial area in Elizabeth, NJ. The Elizabeth Detention Center holds 250 men and 50 women in beds that are arranged into 13 dormitories, some as large as 40 beds and others as small as six. Detainees spend 22 hours a day in these dorms with one hour for “indoor recreation” and one hour for “outdoor recreation.” This “outdoor recreation” is actually a large room with an open-air skylight in the center of the ceiling. There are no windows in the facility, and showers and toilets have no doors on the front of the stalls.
Seldom do the true stories of those detained come out. Sequestered in jails, they lose their voices, their rights and their hopes. With an Open Society Institute fellowship, photojournalist Steven Rubin was granted a rare opportunity to go behind these locked doors. The American Bar Association organized a nationwide tour of an exhibit of 19 photographs, with detailed explanations of the process the detainees endure, so as to put a face on the staggering numbers of detainees caught in this system and to make their need for pro bono representation and policy changes more real.
A wine and cheese formal reception, with music and poetry reading, accompanied the opening night ceremonies on Saturday, July 19th, at 7:00 pm, at our building. Loretta Weinberg was a notable attendee.
The exhibit took place JULY 19 – 31 and was sponsored by our Society, in cooperation with the Interfaith Refugee Action Team – Elizabeth (IRATE) & The American Bar Association.