Protesters March Against Child Separation At Homestead, FL Detention Center: Why You Should Care
About 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the U.S.
Most of them work, often doing jobs no one else wants, and they are key to some U.S. industries, especially agriculture, according to Mary Jo Dudley, director of the Cornell Farmworker Program.
South Florida congressional members and hundreds of protesters representing 23 advocacy groups rallied on Saturday at a detention center in Homestead, Florida, that is housing children who crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.
Protesters carried banners speaking out against the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant families. Many in the crowd were children, and they chanted “Hey, Trump, leave the kids alone!” WGCU reported.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz was part of a group of Broward County Democrats who were finally allowed on the weekend to see inside a Homestead facility where more than 1,000 migrant children are being held. The facility is for “tender age” children – those under age of 13 with some younger than 6 years old, NBC Miami reported.
The lawmakers said they interacted with the children, asking them if they know where their parents are. The facility was “clean” and taking good care of the minors, they said, according to WGCU.
Homestead is a major agricultural area. As of 2000, speakers of Spanish as a first language accounted for 51.1 percent of the population compared to English speakers at 43.22 percent, according to the Modern Language Association Data Center.
About 8 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. have jobs, making up 5 percent of the U.S. workforce, and that share hasn’t changed much over the past decade, wrote Mary Jo Dudley, director of Cornell Farmworker Program at Cornell University, in The Conversation.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that about half of the country’s farmworkers are unauthorized, compared to 15 percent undocumented in construction, and 9 percent undocumented in jobs such as fast food and domestic help.
“In recent research conducted by the Cornell Farmworker Program, 30 New York dairy farmers told us they turned to undocumented workers because they were unable to find and keep reliable U.S. citizens to do the jobs. That’s in part because farm work can be physically demanding, dirty and socially denigrated work. More importantly, it is one the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.”
March against child separation
Sen. Bill Nelson joined U.S. Congress members Wasserman Schultz, Fredericka Wilson and Ted Deutch on a tour of the Homestead facility Saturday. They concluded that “the center lacks the staff and resources necessary to expedite the process of reunifying the children with their families. The facility has just one person overseeing the reunification process, and she does not work on weekends,” WGCU reported.
Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham has described the child detention centers as “essentially summer camps” for children. Quartz ran an article on the subject entitled: “Is it fair to call the US’s migrant child detention centers ‘concentration camps’?”
Parents are having a hard time calling their kids at the detention centers, said Thomas Kennedy, deputy political director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
“Parents are being given a 1-800 number to call, to get in touch with their children at these facilities. But they can’t track their kids,” Kennedy told WGCU. “A lot of these parents who are being deported back to their home countries don’t have access to a telephone.”
President Donald Trump’s executive order on Wednesday to end family divisions did not address the 2,300-plus children already separated from their parents at the Mexico border. The Department of Homeland Security says it’s working on reuniting the families but there is no clear process for how to do so, Deutch said.
Concentration camps aren’t necessarily violent. Historically — before Nazi Germany, that is — they were places for “mass detention of civilians without trial, usually on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, citizenship, or political affiliation,” said Andrea Pitzer, the author of “One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps.” In a Quartz interview, Pitzer said earlier camps actually set the stage for German death camps by promoting “the idea that extrajudicial detention could be done humanely.”
It doesn’t matter that members of Congress said the Homestead facility appeared to be clean, said Samantha Hoare, who works at an education non-profit. She would have expected the facility to be clean, regardless, she told WGCU.
Commissioners called on the government to be more transparent with county officials about the children who are at the Homestead facility, and at other facilities in Miami and the surrounding area that are holding migrant children as young as newborns.
By detaining children, the U.S. is flirting with more serious abuses down the road, Pitzer said.
“It was those earlier versions that set the stage for the brutal models that followed. So in addition to the harm that we as a country are choosing to inflict on the most vulnerable children we can reach, we are institutionalizing dangerous practices that typically serve as the basis and legal authority for much worse camps later.” — Andrea Pitzer, author of “One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps.”