Rally Against Immigrant Family Detention in San Antonio
More than 50 people showed up to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office in San Antonio at 8940 Fourwinds Dr. Tuesday afternoon to protest the thousands of immigrant women and children being held in the Karnes and Dilly detention centers, where families can be detained for months on end or even close to a year.
Currently, the daily census for the two facilities in Texas is around 2,200 detainees, according to the Interfaith Welcome Coalition. An August report released by UNICEF states that almost 26,000 unaccompanied children, mostly hailing from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were apprehended at the U.S. border along with an additional 29,700 people in the first six months of 2016. Most individuals were traveling as families, specifically mothers and young children.
During the Tuesday rally, individuals continuously chanted “let our babies go,” and attempted to deliver oversized baby cards, baby shower balloons, pairs of socks, and diapers to the ICE office, a symbolic move aimed to represent the countless children held in detention. When ICE office staff came outside, protestors requested to speak with ICE Regional Directors. Security officers said “we’ll see what we can do,” but nobody came outside. Rally attendees decided to walk across the front lawn of the building and placed all their cards and symbolic objects on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security‘s (DHS) office entrance sign.
Speakers at the rally included Rev. Marisol Caballero of the Texas UU Justice Ministry, Paul Pfeiffer of the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, Sr. Sharon Altendorf from COPS/Metro, and Jonathan Ryan, an immigration attorney and executive director of RAICES, a nonprofit charity that provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. The speakers represent a coalition of faith and community leaders who are working together with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) to coordinate events around the country calling for an end to family detention.
The protest comes on the heels of the recent Aug. 18 announcement made by the U.S. Department of Justice, which stated that it will begin phasing out the use of private, for-profit prisons. Many hoped that that would include the immigration detention system, but those hopes were unfounded. Ryan said that pressure from the public and the media prompted the the DHS to announce plans to review the practice of using private immigration detention facilities.
“Their deadline to (come to a decision) is at the end of November,” Ryan said. “But really, this is a feeble attempt by the DHS to kick the can down the road and alleviate the pressure it’s under now.”
Caballero opened the event with a prayer and asked everyone to imagine the children in detention centers who do not have the luxury of leaving every morning to go to school, playing outside, or going to the park because they are incarcerated.
Caballero asked the audience to answer the question: “What would move a mother to go on such a perilous journey with a small child, or carrying a child through pregnancy?” She added that these people are incarcerated for the crime of risking everything for the love of their children, so they can have a better life.