Community Leaders, Interest Groups, and Private Citizens from across the country attend Protest March to the Children’s Immigration Facility - South Dade News Leader: Community News | South Dade News Leader | Miami Dade County

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Community Leaders, Interest Groups, and Private Citizens from across the country attend Protest March to the Children’s Immigration Facility

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Posted: Friday, June 29, 2018 12:00 am | Updated: 10:33 am, Fri Jun 29, 2018.

Editors Note:  SDNL writer Phil Marraccini reports his personal insight and opinion after attending the march to protest illegal migrant children being housed in Homestead.

While attending a Protest Rally to the Homestead Children’s Immigration Facility on June 23, I heard disturbing stories of abuse, lack of education and poor conditions being forced on 1,100 plus children who supposedly were ripped from the arms of their parents then transported to the South Dade Facility. Mingling throughout the crowd of about 500, not several thousand as stated in the media, I listened to a member of the Dade County School Board claiming the students lacked school supplies and qualified personnel for education. She went on to claim that attempts to assist from the School Board have been denied by the facility. Then I stopped to ask two clergy protestors how many calls they made to offer assistance inside the facility…their answers, “none, we never thought about it.”

A picture of children being fenced away from anguished parents stirred the crowd but it wasn’t taken in Homestead as claimed. Where was it snapped and when? Heard it could it have been taken during a former President’s reign but was unable to confirm or deny that claim.

Enter my job: sort fact from fiction. First, of all I believe the thunder of this rally would have never materialized if the Homestead facility had opened its

doors to public officials earlier in the week as requested. This refusal on the part of the temporary shelter allowed rumors to spread leading up to this protest. Public Officials took to the media rightfully expressing their outrage but going overboard posing questions on whether the children were abused, “Are they sleeping on the floor? Are they being properly fed?” Of course a little media exposure in an election year never hurts a candidate but unbridled statements can fuel an uninformed crowd causing a frenzy.

I ventured ahead of the protestors and spoke to several members of the media who were present when Senator Bill Nelson and several others exited the facility after a tour. Their comments on the facility were generally positive. Though there are about 70 children who were taken from parents, Senator Bill Nelson was assured that most are in contact with their parents by phone. Nelson remarked, “The facilities are nice.” Other positive comments would have dispelled a majority of reasons for the march against the Homestead Facility but on a national level the question of how and when children will be reunited with their families still burns in the heart of all of us who are parents.

Later, in a private interview with an inside worker, I discussed a variety of issues including conditions. I was told that rooms consist of six sets of bunk-beds. Two sinks, a toilet and shower are shared by the twelve children. Each day an employee is assigned a room of 12 children or less. To avoid attachment, a different group is received the following day. “There is a boy’s dorm and a separate three story building for girls. When the children, age 13 to 17 arrive, they virtually have little besides the clothing they are wearing with a few personal items. Each are given an assortment of new clothing including shirts, shorts, pants, sneakers and sandals. Every bed is numbered corresponding to numbers on clothing so when washed they can be returned to the proper person.” No, no one has their number tattooed on their arm as some protestors equated the facility to a Nazi Camp. In fact, with clean beds, new cloths and three meals a day with in-between snacks most of these

children have never had so much. Of course there is a regimented schedule with education and time for sports. “Twice a week, children are give FREE, 10-minute phone access to speak to parents or other relatives within or outside the United States.”

The idea of this program is to protect children while legal battles are settled for parents and guardians who entered this country illegally. The hope is to reunite families once immigration issues are settled for stay either in this country or deportation. Is the system perfect…Hell no! Do families get torn apart…you can bet your bottom dollar, but these laws exist and were also enforced under Presidents Bush and Obama. However their statistics are rarely reported by the media. NOW, WE AS A NATION MUST DECIDE TO ENFORCE IMMIGRATION LAWS OR REWRITE THEM.

The conversation with my contact, a legal immigrant, ended with what we feel is the root of the problem - a stricter immigration policy by Mexico could lessen the flow from other Central American Countries by tightening Mexico’s Southern borders. We agreed that a majority of those fleeing Guatemala and El Salvador have no intentions to relocate in Mexico due to lack of opportunity and similar conditions of their country. In fact, Mexico knows this and encourages them to move on the the United States. IN MY OPINION: The Mexican Government is using immigration as a tool to retaliate for tightening trade agreements by the United States. If we hurt them economically by changing NAFTA they will multiply our immigration problem with a continued unrestricted flow across their country.”

Unfortunately, we are faced with one of two unpleasant choices 1) Open the borders to all who enter through Mexico or 2) Catch and immediately return illegals to Mexico without detention, trial or separation of families. If all illegals were immediately returned to Mexico, you would see our neighboring country tightening its southern borders stopping the flow of immigration. Mexico does not want the economic burden immigration in their country. When the flow of immigrants to the U.S is stopped, the Mexican Government will take action.

I left the rally completely frustrated knowing the public had a bundle of misinformation about what actually happens behind the walls of the Homestead Temporary Shelter. But on a National level, we as a Country have to find a solution to the problem of immigration knowing not everyone will agree on the same course of action. Let’s remember, we must address issues like this in a civilized manner after all, we are a Nation of Peace aren’t we?

NOTE: A request for information from the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Alien Children Office of Refugee Resettlement U.S. Department of Health & Human Services was made on June 23rd. By by print deadline at noon June 27th no reply had been received.


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