From coast to coast, protesters came out to demand the federal government end the suffering of children and adults who have been put into border camps, ill-treated and separated from families. In Davis, organizer Seth Sanders told the Vanguard they had 243 people alone sign the petition, putting their crowd estimate at over 300 people outside of Congressman John Garamendi’s G Street Davis Office.
In a letter to Representative Garamendi, dated July 1, from Indivisible Yolo, they write, “The presence of evil is clearly in our midst but we refuse to allow it to triumph. The suffering of children and adults at the U.S. Southern Border must end NOW.”
“We hold our congressional members accountable to high standards of responsible and humane governing decisions, while also seeking better solutions,” the letter says. “We are appalled and infuriated by your vote to support increased funding for border policing without any guarantees for the safety and well-being of human beings seeking shelter in our country.”
The letter continues: “People, who traveled thousands of miles fleeing violence, poverty and suffering in their respective homelands, are criminalized and dehumanized daily at the U.S. border.”
They argue, citing legal immigration experts, “there is no requirement to detain ANYONE crossing the border except those with certain prior criminal convictions which do NOT include misdemeanor border crossing.”
They add: “The mass detention and separation of families is purely a choice; a cruel and intentional strategy by the Trump administration to terrorize immigrant communities, criminalize immigration, and dismantle our asylum laws.
“Young children are separated from their parents and imprisoned in squalid living conditions without the basic humane provisions of space, adequate food and drinkable water, beds, blankets, toothbrushes, showers, clothing, diapers …the minimum a civilized country would offer. The damage inflicted upon these children is immeasurable.”
A number of people came forward to speak during the protest.
Organizer Seth Sanders told the crowd that he was there because the US policy “to imprison migrants rather than releasing them to friends and family outrages me as a human being.” He said, as a Bible scholar, “the choice to jail and torment refugees violates the most important principal of the Bible which is to remember that you too, all of us, were once refugees in Egypt.
“Finally, as a Jew, I cannot stand the presence of concentration camps in my own country, paid for with my tax dollars,” he added.
“This is a choice to make this happen,” Mr. Sanders said. “Conditions in the camps are an intentional and legally unnecessary strategy by the Trump administration. ICE has complete freedom to release migrants except those with a certain set of criminal convictions. Those convictions do not include misdemeanor border crossing.”
UC Davis Professor Brad Jones, who works for Humane Borders in the Arizona-New Mexico desert, told the crowd to remember the two El Salvadoran immigrants found floating in the Rio Grande. “They are two more of the immigrants that have died on the US-Mexico Border.”
He explained, “In 1994 the US Government designed a policy of prevention by deterrence. The police was designed to use the Arizona desert – the physical desert – to kill migrants. It has worked, it has killed 7000 migrants if not more over the last 20 years.
“The two that died last week are just two more of a pile of bodies that have died on the US Border,” Professor Jones said. “The vote last week by Congressman Garamendi was a complete disappointment because it abdicated any consciousness to Mitch McConnell and the GOP on the vote. That’s abhorrent.”
Daniel Chavez from Sacramento Immigration Coalition said, “Our lives have been impacted for decades. My grandmother crossed the Rio Grande in 1910, fleeing the violence in Mexico – undocumented, crossing that river with a baby in her arms. That picture last week reminds us of the consequences when society is indifferent.”
Anoosh Jajorian from Safe Yolo and the Davis Phoenix Coalition said she started working on this issue on November 6, 2016. “President Trump showed us who he was and who he was attacking on day one,” she said. “We knew this day was coming.”
She added, “People across the nation are fed up with immigrant communities being targeted by this administration. Criminalized, punished, killed simply for coming to find a better life like many of our ancestors before us.”
Ms. Jajorian said that Congressman Garamendi and his staff “assured us that the house bill was going to go entirely for care and not for enforcement. Then what happened? The house capitulated on their bill, they took the Senate bill, they did not put any of the projections in that they promised us so that the immigrant children and families would be taken care of – and none of it would go to enforcement.”
Pastor Casey Dunsworth is a campus pastor at UC Davis. “I’m here because my faith compels me to be here,” she said. “I’m here because Jesus would be here among those imprisoned. Our scripture tells us that who have been most marginalized, the most minoritized, the most traumatized by our government are who we should be standing with… not continuing to marginalize, minoritize and traumatize.”
Eva Mroczek noted that, as a Jew, that “in the Jewish community understand the stakes of what’s going on right now. Never again is now.”
She said, “Seven children are known to have died after being taken into US Immigration Custody.” She read out each of the names “in order to bear witness.”
Emily Henderson said, “What these testimonies tell us is that this problem is not due to a lack of funding. This is not a lack of resources. This is deliberate punitive cruelty. It is a choice of the administration. This is what our Congress voted to finance.”
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) visited the camps and delivered a speech denouncing the conditions outside of Clint, Texas.
Her comments were read on Tuesday: “This is about the preservation of our humanity. And this is about seeing every person there as a member of your own family. I am tired of the health and the safety, the humanity, and the full freedom of black and brown children being negotiated and compromised and moderated.”
She would add: “I learned a long time ago that when change happens it’s either because people see the light or they feel the fire.”
The letter to Representative Garamendi closed, “We cannot understand your enabling unnecessary and cruel detention. We cannot condone your support for continuation and expansion of concentration camps. We can only ensure that you understand the degree to which your vote has minimized our perception of your commitment to protect and uphold the values of our country. Close the camps and reunite families NOW.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting