Incarcerating Children: A Personal Reflection

By Kathy Peterson

In March, I joined the now 100-day-long witness at the immigrant children's prison camp located in Homestead, Florida.  There were roughly 2,200 kids there from ages 13-17 and new busloads arrived most nights.  The government is aiming to reach full capacity: 3,200 incarcerated children.  Recent family separation and child detention efforts were aimed at dissuading asylum seekers from coming to the US.  Like the decades of other prevention through deterrence policies, this policy failed completely. However, well-connected former government members have realized that there is tremendous money to be made in this scheme.

Although a Federal Judged ordered child separation to end on June 26, 2018, it continues.  Any child who arrives with someone who is not a proven parent is considered unaccompanied and sent to the prison camp.  Any parent who has previously tried to enter the US is immediately charged with the crime of illegal re-entry, and the family will be separated and imprisoned.  Any parent with an arrest record in their native country will have their child taken and be jailed.  This includes charges related to defending oneself in domestic violence circumstances.  The number of detained immigrant children climbs everyday even though there are families and sponsors wanting to be reunited with their children.    

 As more children have been detained (from about 2,700 when Trump took office to more than 15,000 by December 2018), there has emerged a closed loop of profit and power that has allowed a small number of corporate actors to reap enormous gains, which are then funneled in part into campaign contributions, which in turn ensure the creation and maintenance of policies to protect and promote their personal financial benefit.  The for-profit companies running these prison camps have no incentive to release children.  Right now, there are about 11,000 separated children being held in 100 sites.

At Homestead, the largest prison of any kind in the US, they are being paid $750 a day per child.   At a capacity of 3,200 children, that is $2.4 million a day of tax payer money being funneled into the for-profit DC Capital Partners Corp, the company that owns Comprehensive Health Services (CHH), which operates the Homestead Camp.  The 10-member board of DC Partners includes former top national security, diplomatic, and military officials.   One member, John Kelly, is the former Trump Chief of Staff and Secretary of Homeland Security.  He helped craft the policies that caused these detentions and now he is making money off those very policies.

CHH has just been awarded a no bid $341 million contract to run Homestead beyond October.  This has outraged some members of Congress who are calling for an investigation.  CHH is not licensed to care for children in Florida.  In addition, CHH has paid a $3 million medical fraud settlement in Florida for double-billing while providing medical screenings for IRS agents. In May, General Dynamics (GD) got a $1.6 million contract to provide training and technical assistance at Homestead. GD has faced $280.3 million in penalties for 23 misconduct cases since 1995. When the kids turn 18, they are handcuffed, shackled, and transferred to a GEO-owned facility, the infamous Broward adult prison.  GEO has made major campaign contributions to Donald Trump and hired a lobbyist who worked on behalf of Trump’s Florida golf courses.  It is clear that our criminally corrupt system of making war on brown migrants is enriching a small few who have found criminalization to be a very lucrative path to obscene profits.    

Take Action

  1. Follow the movement to end immigrant child prisons on Facebook: Witness Tornillo: Target Homestead. There are daily actions announced on the page that you can take to help end this atrocity.

  2. Go to Homestead to join the Witness.  Call Kathy Peterson 314-781-5740 for information. 

  3. Invite a speaker come to your group and/or include and article in your newsletter/bulletin/publication.  Call Kathy Peterson 314-781-5740 for information. 

  4. Donate! Consider the following:

  5. Speak up about the atrocity of child prison camps every day until they no longer exist.


About the Author:

Kathy Peterson and her husband, Dan Mosby, have been involved with IFCLA for more than 30 years.  They participated in the Witness at the now closed Tornillo, Texas, child concentration camp, joined in a week of lobbying the U.S. congress to end the mass incarceration of immigrant children, and have recently returned from Witnessing at the Homestead, Florida, concentration camp.

Entering the US: Visas, Caps and Chain Migration

Entering the US: Visas, Caps and Chain Migration

Ever wonder how many people can enter the US each year? Is there a limit? Based on what? What pathways exist to immigrate to the US? The answers to these questions often depend on an individual's relationships, country of origin, economic class, and even age. This article gives a break down on the amount of time it takes for people to enter the US, and how many people turn to migration to reunite with families. Plus, see what you can do to help create safe migration that honors the dignity of all.

Venezuela in Crisis

Venezuela in Crisis

Lives in the Balance: Why TPS is Needed for Venezuela Now. This report from the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) analyzes the current situation in Venezuela and advocates for an appropriate US-response in the form of TPS: "Venezuela is facing a massive, escalating humanitarian crisis that includes state-sanctioned violence and persecution of civilians, severe food and medicine shortages, a collapsed economy and a large-scale exodus of people from the country. There is a growing, bipartisan movement of support for Venezuela to be designated for Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, including legislation in both the House and Senate, so that Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. are protected from deportation."

End the 287(g) Programs

End the 287(g) Programs

How do local law enforcement agencies interact with people who are undocumented? What is the role of law enforcement in our communities? This article breaks down harmful the 287(g) programs that empower local law enforcement to act as federal immigration authorities: checking status, detaining individuals, and limiting the trust people have in police. Learn how these programs violate Constitutional protections and threaten our communities, and see what you can do to help.

Co-Responsibility: the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act H.R. 1299

Co-Responsibility: the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act H.R. 1299

Berta Cáceres was an activist, leader, environmental rights advocate, and a voice for human rights all over Central America, but heavily focused on Honduras. She was a cofounder of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, which was designed to address threats to indigenous communities, and help them fight for their land rights and improve their quality of life. She was an advocate for equal representation, anti-violence, and land rights for the indigenous and native people of Honduras.

The Center of Everything: Encounter at the US-Mexico Border

The Center of Everything: Encounter at the US-Mexico Border

Where is the “center” of immigration issues in the United States today? Is it there, in Arivaca, on that shrubby plain, surrounded by the discarded items of migrants en route? Is it at Paso del Norte, under the bridge that connects El Paso to Juarez, where thousands of migrants huddle together, freezing and hungry? Is it in the White House, where the administration routinely dehumanizes and criminalizes migrants?

Deterring Our Neighbors

Deterring Our Neighbors

Within this Administration, there have been multiple bills that seek to deter people from immigrating to the U.S., but deterrence tactics are not new: U.S. border and immigration policies and laws have utilized deterrence for decades, including policies such as Operation Gatekeeper from the Clinton Administration, Operation Guardian Support from the Trump Administration, as well as other deterrence policies and tactics specifically surrounding the deserts in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.  The deterrence policies and tactics maintained and expanded by the current administration systemically deny the dignity of migrants and in many cases have led to irreversible consequences. We must come together to bring about compassion and respect for those who have sacrificed so much to find a better life.

Notes from the March Monthly Meeting

Date: March 25, 2019
Location: IFCLA office, 5021 Adkins Ave., room 122
Attendance: 8

After a welcome and time for connecting around the prompt “Share one good thing that happened to you today,” meeting facilitator Sara John (IFCLA’s executive director) offered a reflection from the book Mujerista Theology by Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz.

Featured topic: Honduras

Ellen Ziegemeier, IFCLA board president, presented an account of the country’s recent history from her unique perspective first as a Peace Corp volunteer and later as a resident. Ellen is also a liaison between IFCLA and the Honduras Solidarity Network, which is committed to solidarity with social movements within Honduras as well as education within the United States and Canada about the impacts of our governments’ decisions and actions related to Latin America.

IFCLA's Advisory Committee: An Invitation for Deeper Engagement

The Advisory Committee is an affirming, welcoming space where members learn from each other and share their own experiences around a new topic each meeting. The group—rejuvenated in 2018 in response to IFCLA’s determination to live up to its bylaws—helps ensure that new ideas flow into our work from many different voices.

From communications to fund development and international delegations to design thinking, we try to dig deep into topics, both energizing us for our daily work and encouraging us to dream big for the future. The Advisory Committee is not a governing body. Rather, its goal is to generate many insights that will be helpful not only to IFCLA, but to other organizations and individuals in their own work.

Take Action to Support the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Act

Take Action to Support the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Act

The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (HR1945), demanding a suspension of all U.S. security aid to Honduras, was recently re-introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson's (GA) office with a total of 43 initial cosponsors!

We're getting signals in the House that we can get it passed this year, so we're in a whole new game strategically. There are a variety of reasons that the Berta Cáceres Act could move differently this year, including increasing grassroots support for the bill in Honduras and the US, mainstream US media attention on Honduras, new progressive Representatives who are moving public conversations via social media and national press, and the important shift to Democratic control of the House.

Amazon and the Abuse of Power Over Immigrants

Amazon and the Abuse of Power Over Immigrants

Written by Michelle Manivel, IFCLA Policy Intern (Spring 2019)

Photo: Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Amazon has recently been scrutinized for multiple incidents relating to gentrification, tax incentives, and now they are attacking our neighbors with their support and contracting for the deportation of immigrants. Here we will uncover how Amazon specifically is targeting immigrants, where it has instilled fear, and what you can do to make an impact!

Interfaith Letter Opposing DHS' Harmful "Remain in Mexico" Policy

Interfaith Letter Opposing DHS' Harmful "Remain in Mexico" Policy

IFCLA is honored to be a signer organization of this letter in opposition to the Department of Homeland Security’s Harmful “Remain in Mexico” Policy. Thank you to our national partners at CLINIC, Interfaith Immigration Coalition, and Church World Service for organizing this opportunity.

Background

The administration continues its attacks on vulnerable asylum seekers arriving at our southern border. It's latest plan, the Remain in Mexico Policy, requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases are pending in the U.S. immigration courts. This policy exposes asylum seekers to great risk of harm, curtails their access to counsel, and does not present a solution to the root causes of Central American migration flows.

Show Your Love and #DefundHate This Valentine’s Day

 Show Your Love and  #DefundHate This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a day to show love and appreciation for the important people in our lives. Take a moment on this holiday to show immigrants that you stand with them by taking action to #DefundHate. Action on this day can influence the lifetimes of immigrants and their loved ones. The government could shut down again tomorrow, but our voices can play a part in stopping it! Join faith and community leaders in calling Congress and urging them to prevent funding for deportation, detention, and militarization. Ask them to ensure that tomorrow’s hearing does not implement more drastic changes to our already immoral immigration system. ICE took more people into custody than Congress allowed in 2018, and continued to get funding throughout the last government shutdown. This unethical favoritism has to end now in favor of humane immigration reform.

It is not too late to show your love for our community and your desire to #DefundHate!

Notes from the 2019 IFCLA Annual Meeting

Date: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019
Location: St. John the Baptist Catholic Church - Parish Center
Attendance: 27

Movement blessing before breakfast by Tyler Connoley, Board Co-Convener

Overview of the day’s agenda by Sara John, Executive Director

Reflection on  MLK’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, 1963, Good Friday

Key actions in which IFCLA engaged in 2018 by Sara John

  • Civil disobedience at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in St. Louis (described in a previous blog post).

  • Sanctuary for Alex Garcia (to learn more, check out this video, produced by one of IFCLA’s own team members!).

  • DACA support

  • Accompaniment

Recap: IFCLA's Week of Gratitude

Recap: IFCLA's Week of Gratitude

Thank you all so much for the support and community you provided during IFCLA’s Week of Gratitude! The week was successful on many levels; besides the atmosphere of fun and connection achieved, IFCLA gained sixteen new sustainers and multiple one-time donations over the course of the week! These new sustainer commitments will help IFCLA immensely over the course of the next year, and we are more grateful than we can say. Let’s recap our week:

Call to Action: Demand that Congress Defund Hate!

The Department of Homeland Security’s current budget will expire on December 7, 2018. Now is the time to contact your members of Congress and let them know that the actions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are unacceptable, morally reprehensible, and do not reflect our values or our vision of community.

In order to avoid a government shutdown, Congress must pass a new budget bill. Ask Congress to hold DHS, CBP and ICE accountable for their dehumanizing policies of mass incarceration, deportation and family separation by cutting their funding. They need to hear your voice, loud and clear, demanding that we stop pouring money into the detention and deportation machine.

Focusing on Love at the Border

Focusing on Love at the Border

On November 16-18, I had the privilege of joining dozens of members of the Loretto Community - vowed sisters, comembers, fellow volunteers, and friends - at the SOA Watch Border Encuentro in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Powerful, beautiful experiences abounded over the course of the weekend. We beat makeshift drums in the streets outside of weapons manufacturer Milkor USA in Tucson; we listened and learned at workshops in ambos Nogales put on by impassioned and organized leaders; we sang along solemnly to a closing litany of those killed or disappeared in the borderlands - more unnamed than named.

Press Advisory: Interfaith Press Conference & Faith Dialogue

St. Louis – Faith leaders en route to the tent prison in Tornillo, TX., where immigrant teens are being detained, will hold an interfaith press conference and “diálogo de fe” (faith dialogue) event at Christ Church United Church of Christ in Maplewood, Missouri, on Monday, November 12 at 6:30 p.m. to demand that all immigrant families be reunited.