Colombian rock star Juanes and musician John Legend performed outside of theEloy Detention Center in Arizona Wednesday. The GRAMMY-winning musicians drew a connection between mass deportations and the disproportionate incarceration of people of color in the U.S.
Each played two songs separately and one together — Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” — as about 100 people sang along in Eloy, which is about 60 miles southeast of Phoenix.
“The reason why we’re here, one, is because we want to bear witness to what’s happening so we could tell the world about it,” Legend said to the cheering crowd of immigrant rights activists and detainees’ relatives.
Juanes played the guitar and Legend the piano atop a flatbed truck parked across the street from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. An empty desert field served as the backdrop while people in the crowd held large signs and chanted “Not one more deportation” and “Si se puede” (Yes we can).
Both posted videos to Instagram explaining their messages.
The musicians intended the detainees to hear the music, but organizers were told the inmates were not let out of their cells to hear the concert. The Eloy Detention Center is housing some young immigrants and families who crossed the border from Central America.
Earlier, Juanes and Legend took a tour of the detention center and spoke to detainees inside. Juanes said in Spanish that he was “heartbroken” by what he saw.
The Eloy Detention Center has seen pro-immigration protests in the past. The “Dream 9” were held there for 17 days in the summer of 2013. The young immigrants or “Dreamers” received national attention for illegally entering the U.S. after self-deporting to raise awareness on how mass deportations affect undocumented youth, Dreamers and their families.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.