On July 12, about 100 people, including members of Democrats Abroad (DA), gathered near the U.S. Consulate in Toronto to protest the detention of thousands of migrant children in overcrowded settings in Florida, Texas, and elsewhere in the U.S.
A lawyer who visited one of these facilities has reported that a large majority of the children have U.S. based family members who could take care of them. Instead, they are sleeping on mats and cement floors, and they are not being adequately nourished. Fruit and vegetables are not provided.
Reporters for the Miami Herald, who visited a facility in Homestead, Florida, said that children are identified by a number rather than a name and have very regimented schedules, including five-minute showers and two 10-minute calls a week to family members.
As protestors gathered in Toronto, gatherings were happening at detention centres across the U.S. and in other countries, including Germany and Ireland. The Toronto gathering included participants in the YWCA Settlement Program, the Canadian Association of Refugee lawyers, members of the Honduran community, and other groups, as well as DA members.
A number of speakers talked about urgent need to close these prison-like facilities:
Irit Printz, the rabbi of B’nai Shalom v’Tivah synagogue, said that “This is not a moral gray area. Children should not be held in detention in conditions that are worse than the conditions in which people can keep animals. Parents should not be torn away from their children. Providing people with basic necessities and a safe place to stay should be obvious, not a matter of debate.”
Karin Lippert, DA Toronto chapter Vice-chair, stated later that “Our message at the Lights for Liberty was: Close the Camps. Americans and people around the world are horrified by the images of children in cages, sleeping on the floor in their own feces, without adequate food and water. This is not reflective of American and Canadian values and must not continue. Close the Camps was both a solemn demonstration and a sacred space. Several speakers reminded us of the decades of exploitation of Central America by American corporations – supported by the U.S. government – and the general disregard there has been for the PEOPLE of Central America.”
Ed Ungar, DA Canada Vice-chair, stressed that action is required: “If you do not provide the basics of life (toothbrushes, showers, and so on) for children in your custody, that’s child abuse – child neglect. Society removes those children from custody. This is just as society must remove children from the Trump administration’s custody.”
The gathering concluded with candle lighting, song, and words of encouragement for the journey forward. Julie Buchanan, DA Canada Executive Vice-Chair recalled that “after moving stories and inspirational speakers, we sang John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’”: Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one. ”True, I may be a dreamer but clearly I was not the only one there that day. There is always hope,” said Ms. Buchanan.
In her statement, Rabbi Printz noted the meaning of candle lighting: She said that Jews light candles on Hannukah “because of the principle that light should always be increased in the world, that the world is dark enough without removing what light there is. I am so proud to stand with you today as we add our light to the world with the hope that we can make the world a little brighter, a little more caring, perhaps even a little more just.”
For DA members, the July 12 protest pointed the way toward action that is needed in 2020. Karin Lippert said that the gathering was a powerful reminder of our shared humanity. “ Going forward, the activism of Democrats Abroad living in Canada and around the world, and also our voter turnout in 2020 will be an affirmation of our values and an expression of the collective power of every vote.”
Authored by Virginia Smith