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Photos: Group Rallies For Immigrant Children Held In Detention Centers

Advocates for immigrant children held in detention centers on the country's southern border are ramping up efforts in Bloomington-Normal to protest the Trump administration family separation policy.

People Against Caging Children held a rally in Uptown Circle in Normal on Wednesday to protest the Trump administration policy of separating immigrant children from their families. 

Jeanne Howard of People Against Caging Children said the rationale for family separation is to deter immigration. She said it doesn't work.

“We object to the cruelty being acted upon children at the border in customs and border patrol facilities,” Howard said. 

Susan Burt of People Against Caging Children said U.S. Reps. Darin LaHood and Rodney Davis have voted for aid money to take better care of the kids, but that's not enough.

“There’s already things in place that have not been enforced,” Burt said. “We know that the children are dirty, cold, alone, and sick and that continues in these horrific places where they’re kept. Despite the Flores decision, despite the order, and despite the passage of that law. Signing on things into a law is a good start, but if we don’t enact the provisions of that law, children and families are still suffering. They need to do more.”

The Flores agreement is a court settlement that set limits on the length of time and conditions under which children can be incarcerated in immigration detention.

The group is calling for Congress to take the following actions to protect children:

  • Ensure that children are not detained in Customs and Border Protection (CPB) for any longer than 72 hours 
  • Release children to family members as expeditiously as possible and with congressional authority to ensure policies and practices don’t interfere with timely release from custody
  • Ensure government provides safe and sanitary conditions such as soap, beds, toothbrushes, food, water, blankets, diapers, access to proper hygiene and medical care
  • Require Department of Human Services and Human and Health Services to release monthly reports detailing how long children are in custody
  • Keep families together by ensuring CPB documents when an adult or child in custody claims relation to another migrant
  • Require CPB to have state-licensed child welfare professionals to care for children and evaluate their needs
  • Ban CPB from separating children from their families unless it’s in the best interest of the child: separations should only happen if state-licensed child welfare professionals identify risk of trafficking by adult in family, harm to child unrelated to family’s migration journey, or any other reasonable basis that requires investigation. Systems must be developed to ensure proper documentation, tracking, follow ups to family members on how to contact their children, how to rebut reasons for separation, and how to seek reunification with their children
  • Require CPB to provide independent medical professionals to access its facilities for the purpose of assessing and triaging children’s emergency medical needs
  • Appoint a public health expert to inspect CBP facilities and with the authority to mandate improvements
  • Ensure that any new CPB processing facilities are child-friendly, humane, and provide appropriate care of children and families

Howard, who has an extensive background in social work and studied trauma and loss in children, said the conditions of the detention centers can bring long term consequences to children.
“That damage, both to their brains and bodies which trauma causes, as well as the damage to their psyches, thinking ‘Can I trust my parents to protect me because they brought me here for safety and then I got taken from them,’ those children will live with that for the rest of their lives, their families will cope with it for the rest of their lives and the fact that our government is doing this deliberately is beyond my understanding.”

Howard said the Trump administration policy is turning refugees into fugitives. Immigrants are willing to seek Border Patrol to seek asylum, but the policy encourages them to not be seen.

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Darnysha Mitchell is an Illinois State University student and reporting and social media intern at WGLT.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.