How to Respond to Threats of Immigration Enforcement
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.
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.
Go to Homestead to join the Witness. Call Kathy Peterson 314-781-5740 for information.
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.
Donate! Consider the following:
Support the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee at Fianzafund.org to post bond to reunite families. Donations to the Fianzafund.org are tax deductible through their fiscal sponsor, the Alliance for Global Justice.
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.
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.
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.
The Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA) was enacted in 1997 to protect immigrant children in government custody. Under the FSA, children were not allowed to be held for longer than 20 days in detention facilities due to the proven harmful effects on their development and well-being. The Trump administration has released an amended version of this ruling that would permit undocumented children and parents who enter the U.S. to be held indefinitely in unlicensed and unregulated facilities. Under the proposed regulation, “emergency” loopholes could result in the denial of basic needs or services to families in detention, as well as reduced access to due process. Plus, children would no longer be required to be transferred to Health and Human Services facilities within 72 hours of being detained.
So, what can you do about this injustice?
We stand firmly in opposition to the latest prevention-through-deterrence tactics used along the U.S.-Mexico border. It is wrong to separate and detain families. It is wrong to put children in cages, jails, tents, or "tender age" shelters. These recent policy changes are shocking, appalling, and morally reprehensible — but if we are surprised, it is only because we have not been paying attention.
For a long time I was naive to the destruction that the United States had been a part of in Central America. To this day Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have some of the highest murder rates. At the South Texas Family Residential Center, I saw the consequences of this destruction first hand. The women and children that are imprisoned in the detention center are fleeing poverty, gang threats, and domestic violence. During my time in the detention center I was responsible for translating and prepping women for their credible fear hearings. From 8:00am till 6:00pm I heard the stories of women who had made the courageous decision to leave their home countries with their small children with the hope of a better life.