By Rev. Kathleen McTigue on June 21, 2019
Over the weekend of June 15 and16, I traveled to Miami, Florida, to take part in a large demonstration in the town of Homestead. The town itself is home to a vibrant community that includes generations of migrants. Its economy is built around large plant nurseries, where long neat rows of tropical plants are cultivated year around, destined for the market in houseplants all over the country.
Since 2017, Homestead has also been the location of the largest detention facility for migrant children in the country. The demonstration over the weekend was the latest manifestation of public outrage over the practice of imprisoning migrant children simply for being undocumented. Over a thousand of us gathered on Sunday afternoon in the pouring rain, centered ourselves with prayer and song, and then walked along the fence that marks the perimeter of the prison. The fence itself is covered by an opaque canvass, making it impossible to see or make direct contact with the children held within. But as we walked, we chanted and sang in Spanish, Los vemos, los queremos! – We see you, we love you!, in the hope that our presence might offer a little hope and the awareness that they are not forgotten.
Longstanding immigration law stipulates that no migrant child may be imprisoned for longer than 20 days, under the decision known as the Flores Agreement. The administration has been in flagrant violation of this limit, declaring facilities like the Homestead detention center to be “emergency influx shelters.” Under this argument, children are being held for many months, even though they have family members willing to receive and shelter them. Lawsuits demanding their release are winding their way through courtrooms, but the process is slow and, with so many conservative justices recently appointed, increasingly uncertain.
UUSC, along with many other grassroots and faith-based organizations, will continue to do all that we can to draw attention to the misery our government is inflicting on migrants. For-profit prison companies are reaping windfall profits off the backs of children, at taxpayer expense. And a humanitarian crisis is being treated as a crime, with cruel punishments like family separation and the imprisonment of kids used as a deterrent to keep others from migrating – which is both morally bankrupt and quite obviously ineffective.
Desperate people will always migrate in search of safety for themselves and their children, as is their right. There are many ways in which our immigration system is in urgent need of change, but the pathway to that change can never include the imprisonment of children.
Photo Credit – Robert Perez
About UUSC: Guided by the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity, UUSC advances human rights globally by partnering with affected communities who are confronting injustice, mobilizing to challenge oppressive systems, and inspiring and sustaining spiritually grounded activism for justice. We invite you to join us in this journey toward realizing a better future!