LA Protest Calls for the Release of Immigrant Children

Thousands protested last Sunday, June 14, but this time it was not solely for Black Lives Matter (BLM).

This civil rights protest organized by the Latino community was held to bring public and more widespread attention to “free the  children held in cages,” who are currently in custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at for-profit detention centers.

The large crowd gathered on the 1st Street bridge in Boyle Heights before marching to downtown Los Angeles City Hall. Aztec dancers blessed the protest and performed throughout the day. Some placed signs on the back of their headdresses to “Abolish ICE.”

This protest, held simultaneously as Black Lives Matter demonstrations continued throughout the city, responded to some criticism that their protest could deter from BLM protests. They met the question by incorporating Black Lives Matter messages into their signs that called for the release of immigrant children.

In turn, many protesters who’ve been actively marching for Black Lives Matter joined the Sunday city hall protest. They held up signs that read, “BLM Supports #FreeRKids.”

Flyers for the protest called for “an end to racism and injustice for all minorities.”

“It’s time for all of us to fight back against the racist system, we stand here for our kids,” shouted a speaker from the city hall steps. The large crowd responded loudly with the persistent chants — “Free our kids, El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido  (The people united will never be defeated).”

Speakers called the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute parents and separate families “cruel and inhumane.” 

One protester who described herself as a “Mom,” said that there hasn’t been enough awareness or information.

“Any mother or father would be sick with worry not being able to protect their child, knowing they are out of their reach,” she said.

Critics, including many in Congress, say the administration’s slow response to process asylum requests for those who’ve traveled to the US-Mexico border, the vast majority escaping violence and poverty in Central America, is exacerbating a humanitarian crisis in Central America, breaking US law, and violating international human rights norms.

Being held in cramped conditions it appears impossible for the children or the men and women held to be able to “socially distance,” during this COVID-19 threat.

There have also been reports of children being sexually abused at the detention centers and the failure to keep accurate records of the children which makes reunification with their relatives even more difficult.

In addition there are cases where parents have been deported back to their home countries and haven’t been allowed to take their children — they’re left behind at the US detention centers.

US Immigration has separated thousands of families during the Trump Administration; however, this practice is not new. It’s been a practice throughout US History — during the internment of Japanese Americans and forcing native children into US boarding schools.

“These children are innocent, but right now, they’re locked in cages,” said one protester who asked not to be identified. “We’ve all seen the photos: they’re cramped, jammed in like sardines, they’re unhappy. Can you imagine the harm that’s been done to them?”

Editor Diana Martinez contributed to this report.