In what is likely the first in a series of immigration-related protests, several hundred people came to a rally outside the Otay Mesa Detention Center on Sunday demanding the release of asylum seekers fleeing gang violence and state repression.
They were taking up the cause of asylum seekers who –for the most part–have voluntarily turned themselves at the border. Little did the protesters know their own participation in the event would lead to harassment by border authorities.
Protests are spreading nationwide in the wake of horrific reports of abuse and mistreatment by immigration agencies. People are speaking out against a President who refers to immigrants as ‘animals’ and implements policies inflicting punishment on people whose rights to due process are rapidly vanishing.
Conditions in the Otay Mesa private prison were addressed on Sunday as letters were read from the four dozen or so people held in the prison since arriving in Tijuana six weeks ago as part of a caravan from Central America.
From the Union-Tribune coverage:
“They force us to work for six hours (a day) for a payment of a $1.60,” said David Obud, with immigrants’ rights group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, translating one of the letters. “They threaten to report us to judges when we don’t want to work. They threaten … to damage our cases.
“When we ask for medical attention, they do not treat us, and many of us have pains and wounds,” he added.
Jennye Lopez, who came to the United States last summer after her brother was gunned down by gang members in El Salvador, spent six months inside the facility before she was released. She was one of the speakers addressing the group at the protest.
“For any medical needs it’s nonexistent,” the 24-year-old said in Spanish, through a translator. “They barely offer you water.”
As some of the demonstrators departed, they were singled out for harassment by officers with US Border Patrol as they stopped for lunch. These folks pushed back, streaming live video and making a lot of noise so bystanders could see what was going on.
From a Facebook post by Blade Brown (video here)
This was immediately after a rally at Otay Mesa Detention Center. Everything was peaceful and wonderfully organized. Border Patrol followed my friends for no reason to where we went to eat and started questioning them. As u can see it got escalated, but nothing happened as they knew they were in the wrong. After this they sent police and they circled us while we ate for 30-40 min and then they finally left too and we all went home.
Trump administration policy now separates children from parents when anyone, including asylum seekers, are caught trying to cross the border illegally. The American Civil Liberties Union has launched a class action lawsuit in San Diego in response.
The treatment of minors caught up in the immigration system is making headlines nationally. Children as young as 16 months old are being torn away from their parents to be held in separate facilities. It doesn’t take a genius to see the parallels with the ugliest chapters in world history.
The Boston Globe reported about a public defender in McAllen, Texas, saying some migrants being told their kids were going to be taken away briefly to bathe, only to have it dawn on them hours later they weren’t coming back.
In another instance, parents were given a flyer with the wrong number to call the government to find out where their kids are. The number was eventually corrected on a scrawled, hand-written note.
Even the correct number has obstacles. Parents need a return number to actually be connected to their children, yet they are not allowed to receive phone calls in detention. The U.S government’s actions here are criminal. https://t.co/0frnFPdbBu
— Michelle Brane (@MichelleBrane) June 10, 2018
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) visited a Federal Detention Center in SeaTac, near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Saturday.
She spent about three hours Saturday morning meeting with detainees, most of whom were women. The Washington Post quoted her as saying “ Some of them heard their children screaming for them in the next room. Not a single one of them had been allowed to say goodbye or explain to them what was happening.”
Jayapal said detainees relayed disturbing accounts of being held at Border Patrol facilities in “inhumane fenced cages” (referred to as the “dog pound”) or in the “ice box,” so nicknamed for the facilities’ cold temperatures and lack of blankets or sleeping mats. She also said many women spoke of being deprived of clean water and experiencing verbal abuse while in Border Patrol custody.
“Just the abuse that they endured, being called filthy and stinky and being mocked for crying,” Jayapal told The Post. “One woman said ‘I want to be with my children’ and the Border Patrol agent said: ‘You will never see your children again. Families don’t exist here. You won’t have a family anymore.’ ”
The Department of Homeland Security disputes that detainees are held in “cages,” pointing to a Washington Post Fact Checker article that characterizes them as “chain-link fence enclosures” or “barriers,” as a Trump administration official referred to them.
The third major round-up by ICE got little attention this week. 114 were arrested and bused to ICE detention centers, while dozens of children were left behind in daycare and babysitting. https://t.co/lhBSECVxmb
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) June 9, 2018
The administration’s policy was articulated by Attorney General Sessions last month during a speech in San Diego. “I have put in place a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you … If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” he said.
Here’s Jamelle Bouie, via Slate:
During his speech announcing his “zero tolerance” policy, Sessions framed his actions as reflecting the will of the public. “For decades, the American people have been pleading with our elected representatives for a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest—a system we can be proud of.”
It seems this system—where countless parents face the pain and terror of losing their children with no knowledge of when they’ll return—is what he has in mind
The pushback against the latest incarnation of Trump’s racist border policies is happening–slowly–on many levels.
During the coming week (June 14-23) there will be over 300 Families Belong Together Actions in over 40 states demanding an immediate halt to the separation of children from their parents seeking asylum
San Diego’s Families Belong Together Rally & March will be on Sunday, June 23. Starting at 10am outside the Civic Center, the rally will be followed by a march to the local ICE offices on Front Street.
Participants are being asked to wear a yellow ribbon to stand in solidarity with the families. Children have been taken from their parents wear identity yellow bracelets while in detention.
There are approximately 65 million people worldwide who have been displaced through famine, war, repression, natural disasters, and economic disruption. It’s inevitable that some of them would show up on U.S. borders asking for asylum. By treaty and international law, they have a right to have their arguments heard.
Here are other ways to get involved, via the Guardian
The ACLU has put together a tool and script for people to call their senators and urge them to stand up to the Department of Homeland Security. The Women’s March has launched a petition demanding the Trump administration end the practice of separating families. The group plans to deliver it to Ivanka Trump.
People can also use this Act Blue tool to donate to eight different charities working to protect children separated from their parents at the border. The organizations include Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, United We Dream, and Kids in Need of Defense.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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