‘Close the camps’ actions accelerate in Houston


Since im/migrant families began to be torn apart at the border in 2018, there have been dozens and dozens of Houston protests, marches and rallies against Trump’s racist border policies. 

But now that brutal conditions within the immigrant concentration camps have finally been widely exposed to the world, people have become even more outraged. Events to shut down the detention centers are taking place at a rapid pace.  

Houston FIRE (Fight for Im/migrants and Refugees Everywhere) has recently protested at the office of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, participated in an anti-Fourth-of-July speakout against the camps and rallied at a downtown federal detention center.

The July 2 protest at Cornyn’s office was part of a national campaign to “Close the Camps” called by MoveOn.org at the home offices of congresspeople returning from Washington, D.C., for the July 4th holiday. Ten of thousands across the country came to these protests. 

Some of the Democrats running for president have appeared in Houston to protest. On June 29, candidate Beto O’Rourke called a rally at detention center Casa Sunzul, which houses unaccompanied minors. Casa Sunzul is run by Southwest Key, a notorious nonprofit that received hundreds of violation notices from state regulators during inspections over the last three years.

But the palpable outrage of Houston demonstrators at the July 2 protest went far beyond Democratic politics. All four corners of a street intersection were filled with people chanting, “Close the camps down!” Hundreds came — families, veteran activists, religious groups, peace activists and many who had never protested before. 

Then, on July 4, as some people were ready to barbeque or thinking about the later fireworks, the Carnalismo Brown Berets of Houston held “A Fourth of U Lie” event. As organizer Elizabeth Lozano said, “We have children in concentration camps. What is there to celebrate?”

One of the first speakers reminded people: “Central America has been colonized and pillaged by the U.S. Now people are fleeing the horrible conditions that have been created. They will slaughter these refugees in the concentration camps if we don’t fight for them.” 

Instances cited of U.S. colonizing actions included its 2009 overthrow of the democratically elected president of Guatemala, putting in his place a vicious dictator who allowed protesting students to be gunned down and murders of Indigenous activists and organizers. Before that, in the 1980s, the Sandinista government in Nicaragua was attacked by U.S.-backed contras who committed horrific crimes — murders, rapes and terror. The number of U.S. military invasions and “interventions” in Central America is too long to list here.

Ed E SomiSek, a member of the Esto’k Gna Indigenous people who have lived in what is now Texas and Mexico for centuries, spoke: “Our people have historically lived on both sides of the river, moved around the area, and now they are making us aliens. They are building a wall on our ancestors’ graves.”

The leader of Black Lives Matter, Ashton Woods, got the crowd’s energy flowing as he led chants and spoke: “I stand here as a descendant of a slave, a LGBTQIA person with AIDS. People like me are in those concentration camps. These people are fleeing violence created by this government. What do we have to celebrate today? Mass incarceration, the Thirteenth Amendment, concentration camps and trans women being murdered and brutalized? Be angry about this!” [The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution included legalization of slavery in prisons.]

Sema Hernandez, activist and challenger to Texas Sen. Cornyn, told the crowd: “We need to dismantle this imperialist system based on capitalism and white supremacy. We have to ramp up our work to abolish ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and shut down these concentration camps.” 

Houston FIRE‘s banner and bright yellow signs were very well-received. Outcry about the concentration camps has reignited the outrage that began last summer when families were first separated. FIRE intends to keep that fire burning!

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