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News & Media

For Immediate Release: January 9th, 2020

Contact:  Lauren Taylor | laurenctaylor@gmail.com | (317)-777-1329

Jerry Kickenson | jerry.kickenson@gmail.com | (240)-839-1075

Sudlersville, MD- On the evening of Wednesday, January 8, Marylanders from across the region participated in a candlelight vigil at the Sudlersville Town Office and then attended a standing-room-only Sudlersville town meeting to encourage Town Commissioners to drop or reject  Ordinance 2019-05, which would modify zoning to allow for construction of a private immigration detention center.

During the public comments period, nearly 50 speakers (nearly 20 town residents and 30 others, many of whom live just outside town borders) made what were at times strong statements opposing the ordinance. All meeting attendees were given a chance to speak and, as Queen Anne’s Conservation Association Executive Director Jay Falstad noted near the end of the meeting, not a single voice expressed support for the proposal. Multiple speakers referenced the inherent cruelty and reports of negligence and abuse that have surfaced at similar facilities throughout the country, and several pointed out that, as attendee Mary Leventhal said, “the character and reputation” of Sudlersville is at stake.

“As people of faith, we would like to lift up the serious social, cultural and moral shift that would occur should this town build a detention center to house immigrants,” said Rev. Charlene Belsom Zellmer of the Congregation Action Network. “Their beautiful, serene community would become known as the town where the immigrant prison is located.”

Other speakers noted that some towns and cities hosting similar facilities have reported a net loss of municipal revenue, rather than the financial gains that Sudlersville seeks, and encouraged town commissioners to further investigate these examples.

The immediacy of the zoning change seems to be prompted by overtures made by a for-profit company hoping to build a detention center. In November, Sudlersville Town Commissioners Ford and Ruffner visited an Immigration Centers of America (ICA) facility in Farmville, VA. The ordinance was proposed soon after. The ICA facility in Farmville has been the subject of numerous public health and safety concerns and litigations. Although town President Ronald Ford announced at the beginning of the meeting that the ICA proposal was “off the table,” several residents voiced fears that the town commissioners might be trying to, as one stated, “sneak something through,” by passing the zoning revision that would enable a future such deal.

“Private immigration detention would be detrimental to the local community in addition to immigrants. A report from Detention Watch Network concluded that the industry operates at the expense of people’s health, safety and wellbeing and consistently lacks transparency and accountability. “Private detention companies such as ICA purposefully target financially struggling towns with promises of economic prosperity, but these promises are empty based on what has been documented about the industry” said Nic Galloway of Sanctuary DMV

After the public comments section of the meeting, the commissioners deferred their vote  on the ordinance until a meeting on February 5, 2020.

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Queen Anne’s Conservation Association is the Eastern Shore’s oldest conservation organization, and for over 40 years has been committed to promoting smart and sustainable growth that will ensure the protection of our small towns, farms, waterways and open spaces. 

Congregation Action Network is an organizing network of congregations in the DC/MD/VA region that provide support and solidarity to neighbors, friends, and family who fear being detained, deported or profiled.

Sanctuary DMV is an all-volunteer solidarity group resisting policies and practices targeting immigrants in DC, Maryland & Virginia.

CASA de Maryland is a group of passionate, community-conscious people working to organize, advocate for, and expand opportunities for Latino and immigrant people in the state of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

ACLU of Maryland works to ensure that all people in the state of Maryland are free to think and speak as they choose and can lead their lives free from discrimination and unwarranted government intrusion. 

Faith in Action, formerly known as PICO National Network, is the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the United States. The nonpartisan organization works with 1,000 religious congregations in more than 200 cities and towns through its 46 local and state federations. For more information, visit www.faithinaction.org.

Faith in Action is a 501c(3). Faith in Action and its affiliates are non-partisan and are not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates for office.

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