Immigrant rights advocates call to end ‘inhumane’ treatment of children in detention facilities

February 2, 2021 /

Central Valley Human Right Organizers took action Saturday in downtown Bakersfield to raise awareness of the inhuman situation children are facing inside Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers. 

They peacefully took a stand for social justice and human rights violations on American soil. 

Various organizations, including the United Farm Workers Foundation, Reawakening, Freeminds and community members gathered at Beale Park where the caravan made its way to Mesa Verde detention center on Golden State Avenue. 

The principal objective of this action was to end child detention. However, immigrant rights advocates have a list of demands that address the deplorable conditions in detention centers during the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of access to legal representation, end the family separations, and no more forced sterilization.

Immigrant communities said they had enough and urged President Biden and Vice -President Harris to release all detainees, especially during the pandemic, and to close down all Detention and Private Centers. 

“It’s time to abolish ICE since they do nothing but harm to our communities,” said Gloria Vallin, president of Reawakening Organization. “We know that ICE has been treating all detainees from the years of 6 months to adults with unequal, unfair, and inhuman conditions.”

She continued: “We know they’re unable to get access to healthcare, medications/medical doctors, legal representation and more. ICE has been disrespectful to our Muslim brothers and sisters by forcing them to eat pork and forcing sterilizations on women against their will.”

Bryan Macias, System Change Organizer for the UFW Foundation is another advocate to free children in detention facilities. 

“These children did not commit a crime. They did not enter the country unlawfully. They are seeking asylum by the book,” said Macias. “Yet they are torn from their parents’ arms, abused and thrown in cages to instill fear and deter others from doing the same.” 

The organizers hope the local community and the public at large realize that this is not a partisan or political issue — rather it is a question of morality, advocates say. Human rights activists hope that people put themselves in the shoes of these families and imagine their child being detained in “dog kennels,” so they too join in calling for “No More Kids in Cages.” 

We have seen families torn apart when parents are detained and deported,” said Macias. “Children have to become heads of the household and raise their siblings.” 

Advocates wanted to raise awareness that immigrant communities experience the detrimental impact of living in constant fear of detention and deportation — affecting every aspect of life, from one’s mental health to the likelihood of victims reporting crime to law enforcement. 

“Every kid deserves protection, taken care of, and most of all they need to stay together with their parents,” said Karen Cid, Kern County Community member. “The power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”

Seven children have died as a result of immigration policies, according to reports. These children include S16-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, 2-year-old Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez and 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vasquez. Another 20-month-old girl, Mariee Juárez, died shortly after being held at a family detention camp in Texas and 10-year-old Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle died after months in custody.

Advocates question how this could happen when the Flores Settlement Agreement limits the time migrant children can be held in detention centers to 20 days. U.S. laws also require CBP to transfer minors into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) within 72hours.