Lucia’s* voice is cracking. She can’t hold back the tears as she describes being incarcerated in the GEO Group ICE detention facility, where a crowd is gathered now to hear her.
“Lucia”* fled her father’s abuse and horrific civil war in Guatemala to come to the US in 1998. She went to school here, but had to drop out of high school when her mother died of cancer.
“Lucia” has raised a family, worked, and made a life here, but when her husband was pulled over at a traffic stop, both were incarcerated in the ICE facility in Aurora. For a week, her children had no idea where their parents were, or if they were alive or dead. They finally were able to post $1000 bond each, and are now working their way through the system, trying not to be deported, trying to keep their family together.
Cristian from Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition is a vibrant young man with a wide smile. He is a student leader at his college.
But Cris is a Dreamer, and if DACA protections are rescinded, he could be deported at any time.
He tells the story of how his mother carried him and his young sister over the border, and how she has worked ever since to maintain the family.
“My mother has been on that waiting list (for citizenship) since 1999,” he said. “My whole family pays local taxes, we pay into Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security, we pay Federal taxes, local taxes, sales taxes. We pay for programs we will never benefit from. We’re helping to take care of our nation’s children, of our senior citizens. We are not a burden. The real burden is the moral burden Trump is imposing on this country with these policies.”
Marguerite, from Colombia, said,“ I see this building behind you and it pains me. It hurts. Because I would have to wait in line to see my son. He waited for months there to be deported back to Colombia. There is no illegal human being on this earth. The only way we can become illegal is to break our laws and hurt each other. But we’re not doing that.”
Lucia, Cristian, and Marguerite are speaking to a diverse crowd of about two hundred people, gathered in front of GEO group’s vast, windowless, grim ICE facility in Aurora on June 14, 2018, to protest the Trump administration’s new policy of separating families who are crossing the border.
I am part of this protest. We are here because we feel that we must “do something” to stop the atrocity of tearing families apart and incarcerating the young children of families who come here seeking asylum.
Over 11,000 children have been separated from their families while crossing the southern border since March, according to NPR. About 46 kids a day are being torn away from their parents. This is not including the unaccompanied minors who were already showing up at the border by the thousands.
Trump’s Tent City – An internment camp for children in the desert
Because there is not enough shelter for these children, the Trump administration is building a tent city near Tornillo, Texas, and has already located 100 young children there. It is 100 degrees in the desert in Texas in June. This is an internment camp for children. It is state-sanctioned child abuse, which will cause “irreparable harm to migrant children“. Trump blames Democrats, and his spokespeople try to justify the policy by quoting scripture, but nobody’s buying it.
There is no end in sight on Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy. Trump wants to use the pain of these children as a way to negotiate for his “big, beautiful wall”, which nobody wants to pay for. Speaker Ryan has an alternate proposal, which involves incarcerating the entire family and then deporting them together. Democratic members of Congress continue to press for a comprehensive immigration plan, with an end to family separation, and a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and others.
Protests Across the Country
The Aurora ICE protest was one of 60 around the country, organized on the Action Network by grassroots groups to say that Families Belong Together. There were protests nationwide on June 14, including in Denver at Montview Presbyterian Church, and in Pueblo. House Democrats protested in DC, and in New Jersey, legislators paid a surprise visit to a detention center, demanding to speak with the incarcerated fathers on Father’s Day.
We need to keep protesting. We cannot let this pass. We’ve seen this before. Dehumanize a group, lock them up, take away their property and their children. It is not the law. It is not “Biblical”. It is a deliberately cruel policy which the Trump administration has put in place to satisfy his base, since they’re not getting a “big, beautiful wall”.
Private Prison Companies Profit from Trump Detention Policies
It is also very profitable for the private prison companies that run these facilities. GEO group, which runs the Aurora ICE facility, is the second largest private prison corporation in North America. It houses the bulk of the immigration detainees. GEO donated $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee, and even more during the campaign.
These private prison companies exploit the detainees. There is a lawsuit alleging that Aurora’s facility held people in virtual slavery. ACLU is trying to prevent these corporations, and the Border Patrol, from destroying decades worth of records about sexual and other abuse and deaths while in custody.
Trump’s cruel policy of breaking up families and locking up children demeans and dehumanizes people, traumatizes kids, and debases our ideals as Americans. It is a form of state terrorism. It is what totalitarian governments do to control the population. It must stop. The private prison industry’s obscene profiteering from human misery must stop. Find a way to do what you can.
What you can do:
Contact the President, and your members of Congress. Ask them to stop the Trump policy of separating families, and to vote for the Keep Families Together Act.
Contact these organizations for local and national actions, or to donate:
ACLU – providing legal counsel to families and children at the border, lawsuit to stop separation policy
Families Belong Together Action Network
Stopseparation.org focused on the tent city for kids in Tornillo, TX
Live video from Ursula TX activists protesting outside a detention center. Congressman Beto O’Rourke is there.
America’s Voice network
NAACP – lobbying Congress for the Keep Families Together Act
To find out more about the private prison industry, and how it is profiting from immigrant detention, see prisonprofiteers.org
If you are an attorney, and can do some pro bono work to represent a migrant child or adult, contact the ACLU, or locally, the LGBT bar association to represent LGBT migrants: