July 10 — The Trump administration’s war on im/migrant families continues. Some 3,000 migrant children are still separated from their parents, which the Department of Health and Human Services admitted on July 9.
From May 7 to June 20, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency took migrant children from their parents’ arms at the U.S./Mexico border under the White House’s “zero tolerance” policy. This mandated that all adult immigrants crossing the border would be taken into federal custody and their children placed in detention facilities without them.
The White House xenophobe in chief had to back down from this horrific “family separation” policy when a mass movement arose opposing it. Publicly, he reversed his order on June 20 not out of compassion — but because the “visuals” were bad for his public image.
Federal Judge Dana Sabraw has ruled that all children separated at the border be reunited with their parents within 30 days of his June 26 order, and he decreed that all children under 5 years of age be returned to their parents by July 10. The government now claims that it can only locate 54 of the 102 children under 5 and asked for an extension of the deadline. to deliver a proposed timeline on July 10. On July 10, Judge Sabraw said these were “firm deadlines,” and threatened to penalize the government if it doesn’t comply.
Children are being held in detention centers, many in terrible conditions, caged, alone and neglected, and scattered to 17 states. Some parents have been deported without their children, causing a number of them to join lawsuits against U.S. government agencies to regain custody. The reality is that many youngsters may never be reunited with their parents, and could even be adopted.
Because immigrants are not entitled to due process, they are not provided with public defenders when they go to court, even if they are children. The absurdity of this policy is evident when toddlers must appear in court alone and a judge asks them if they understand immigration law!
This callous disregard for migrant children has infuriated millions of people and spurred on activism — even acts of heroism.
Outrage breeds resistance
On July 4, a courageous woman, Patricia Okoumou, protested these inhumane detention policies by climbing partially up the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. An immigrant from the Congo, Okoumou told the Guardian newspaper that she feared being shot or tranquilized by police, who surrounded her for four hours. She said to officers, “My life doesn’t matter to me now, what matters to me is that in a democracy we are holding children in cages.” (July 7)
Okoumou boldly told police, “You could shoot me the way you shot Claudia González and killed the trans woman,” alluding, first, to the 20-year-old Indigenous Guatemalan woman killed by the U.S. Border Patrol in Texas in June and, second, to Roxana Hernández, a Honduran immigrant who died a brutal death in ICE custody in May.
Arrested and charged with three misdemeanors, Okoumou appeared in federal court on July 5. She sent a strong message that day wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan: “White supremacy is terrorism.” With legal help from Rise and Resist, Okoumou was released. Her next court appearance is Aug. 3.
Protests against family separations continue in Texas border cities. Congressional delegations visiting immigrant detention facilities on July 9 were met by La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) activists in McAllen and by Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network members in Brownsville. LUPE, Texas Civil Rights Project and other forces are staging daily protests and a hunger strike until July 17 in McAllen.
Demonstrations and encampments have been organized in front of Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities throughout the country. Police attacks have not stopped these actions, and calls to “Abolish ICE!” are only growing louder. Workers World Party has supported these protests.
Meanwhile, activists continue to plague Trump’s political cohorts. A group confronted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell outside a Louisville, Ky., eatery on July 7, calling for ICE’s abolition. A few miles away, hundreds of people in Occupy ICE were demonstrating at the city’s ICE office, with the same message. An encampment had been going on there for several days.
The 45th president campaigned on a program of racism and xenophobia. He started his election with racist propaganda against people from Mexico. In the vilest way, he slandered the peoples of Haiti and the African continent. With a sweep of his pen, he ended temporary protected status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants from countries oppressed by imperialism. And with a big assist from the U.S. Supreme Court, he secured a ban preventing immigrants from five majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
While people across the U.S. are rightfully demanding the reunification of migrant families, it is essential to show solidarity with all immigrants who are targets of the racist Trump government.
Houston organizer Gloria Rubac contributed to this article.