Update: Scroll to the bottom of this post to see images from Friday's #FamiliesBelongTogether rally in Miramar.
America's immigration agencies have been ripping families apart, detaining innocent people, and losing contact with seized children since long before Donald Trump became president. But because an open racist is in the White House, more white Americans are finally waking up to that fact.
Now, in response to the Trump administration's decision to separate hundreds of children from their parents at the border and, in the words of Chief of Staff John Kelly, place them in "foster care or whatever," a team of national civil rights organizations, unions, and progressive activist groups are holding a national protest in 30 cities today, including Miami.
The #FamiliesBelongTogether day of action is scheduled at 10 a.m. in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices in Miramar, the central check-in point for nearly all immigrants under ICE's watch in South Florida. Groups supporting the protest include the National Domestic Workers Alliance, American Civil Liberties Union, United We Dream, MoveOn.org, the American Federation of Teachers, the Women's March, the National Immigrant Justice Center, and a gigantic list of fellow groups. More than 20,000 people have signed a related petition demanding the Trump administration rescind its child-separation policies.
"Whether taken by Border Patrol while crossing the border, torn from their parents after seeking asylum, or snatched from their school by ICE, this crisis is proof that the agencies executing Trump’s family separation policies are not acting in the best interests of children and should not be in charge of any child or teenager," the petition reads.
The organizers are also sharing a related petition demanding that Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam close the ICE facility. New Times has written extensively about the conditions at the Miramar office, where immigrants are forced to show up in the dark, predawn hours and then stand outside in the sun and rain for the entire day. It's like a DMV line from hell, except there's a chance that once you enter the facility, you might never leave.
There also appears to be a lack of adequate parking for everyone forced to check in under Trump administration policy, and someone (ICE claims not to know who) has called a private tow-truck company to haul away immigrants' cars while they wait in line. Last week, a security guard threatened to arrest a woman for recording the conditions in the line.
Though ICE says visitors have access to water and bathrooms inside the facility by request, activists say those requests are often denied, and some worry that elderly people stuck in the sun outside might suffer heat-related issues.
Some of the same groups behind today's protest are also hosting the #WhereAreTheChildren rally at the Torch of Friendship in downtown Miami this Sunday. That rally's name references a recent New York Times report that ICE had "lost contact" with roughly 1,500 children who had arrived at the U.S. border by themselves and subsequently been placed with families in the United States.
Though some of the viral headlines about the story have been inaccurate (border officials did not rip these children from parents, for example, and some immigration activists say increased monitoring from ICE might actually be harmful and counterintuitive), increased public pressure on ICE in general, combined with Trump's latest decision to begin removing more children from their parents, has turned the missing-children story into a cause célèbre among immigration activists.
A massive ACLU report this month also revealed that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents have been verbally and physically abusing scores of young migrants, including situations where kids say they were "stomped on, punched, kicked, run over with vehicles, tasered, and forced to maintain stress positions by CBP officials."
New Times has also catalogued a raft of abuses and/or allegations of mistreatment from Florida ICE and CBP agents under Trump, from CBP sweeping through multiple Florida Greyhound buses and pulling off grandparents and longtime Miami residents, to border cops camping out at a food-sharing event for the homeless and apprehending a guy trying to eat.
Yesterday New Times detailed the case of Mary Caceres, a Colombian woman with a valid work visa and a daughter studying at Johns Hopkins University, who was abruptly detained by ICE in Jacksonville and shuttled 300 miles south to Broward. She had committed no crime.
Caceres' story is likely common: ICE arrests jumped 75 percent from 2016 to 2017. According to the Pew Research Center, no other region saw a larger spike than South Florida.
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Update: Here are some images from Friday's #FamiliesBelongTogether rally in Miramar:
This morning 12 year old Leah stood in front of the ICE office in Miramar Florida and to end family separations. Every day she worries that ICE will tear her mom from her. #FamiliesBelongTogether pic.twitter.com/1L0lKyoY7k— We Belong Together (@WomenBelong) June 1, 2018
The Miramar @ICEgov field office is a disgrace. Immigrants there are forced to stand hours in line exposed to the hot FL sun and rain, without adequate bathrooms or even parking. Mayor @WAYNEMESSAM it’s time to step up and call for the shut down of this awful place. #AbolishICE pic.twitter.com/ppMa9zwb6o— Tomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) June 1, 2018
Leah, who is 12 years old, is at the @ICEgov field office in Miramar calling for the end of family separations. She suffers from anxiety due to the possibility that she will be separated from her mom. pic.twitter.com/9zvBuim8mP— Tomas Kennedy (@tomaskenn) June 1, 2018