Fabiola Santiago

Miami, are we going to let 1,000 children be kept in detention in the dark? Speak up!

Unaccompanied immigrant children play soccer at Homestead facility

A video shot by Miami Herald reporter Douglas Hanks shows unaccompanied immigrant children playing soccer at a federally run shelter in Homestead.
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A video shot by Miami Herald reporter Douglas Hanks shows unaccompanied immigrant children playing soccer at a federally run shelter in Homestead.

The government and its contracted caretakers label the 1,000 children — parentless and in detention at a Homestead facility — “unaccompanied alien children.”

Alien, as if they were from outer space, and not God's children, too.

This is how the Trump administration dehumanizes suffering children now in our backyard — no longer just a faraway Mexico border problem — so that we don’t see them, so that we don’t feel their suffering.

Next, they kick the media out of sight when we find their location so that we cannot tell their stories or demand a better quality of care. From the public street, we can only squeeze in a short video of older boys playing soccer. Don’t let the nice game fool you.

These children are locked in detention without being convicted of committing any crime. Some of the older ones are jailed for fleeing by themselves to save their own lives. An unknown number have been ripped from parents now being prosecuted for illegal entry, a misdemeanor. This practice has been condemned by the United Nations, U.S. faith leaders, all of the living first ladies, and medical experts as permanently damaging to the children. But this administration doesn't care.

We, city of refuge to millions, cannot allow this to happen on our watch without a fight. Let’s do something about it: open our homes to fostering; get them legal help to reunite with their parents; and, today and in the future, vote like your life depends on it because it does.

You’ve sent your victims — broken children your administration is abusing for political purposes — to the wrong part of the country, President Donald Trump.

This community, which has taken mass detention cases from Haitian and Mariel immigrants all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won, will fight to protect them.

For starters, we must demand that the Trump administration open the Homestead facility to inspection by our congressional representatives. On Tuesday, they refused to allow Democrats Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz access. The Miami Republicans and Florida Gov. Rick Scott must do more than issue belated statements of disapproval of the separation and detention policy — and join the Democrats in demanding entry.

U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson were denied entry into a federally run facility that is housing a large number of unaccompanied immigrant children on June 19, 2018.

“They are obviously hiding something, and we are going to get to the bottom of this,” Nelson said.

Let’s call this debacle what it is: The separation of immigrant children from their parents — evil, inhumane, and reprehensible — is a Trump “Make America White Again” social engineering policy.

It has been well documented that this is solely the work of his administration, not Democrats or former President Barack Obama, despite the efforts of Trump surrogates to throw doubt into the mix. They hope their lies and distortions will confuse voters who will be judging what has become of the Republican Party in the upcoming midterms.

Let’s see to it that they pay the political price for the life-long psychological damage they are causing these children.

This is not who we are as a nation: violators of human rights, heartless government agents, and people incapable of empathy.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

It was Trump who this spring enacted the “zero-tolerance” policy that has led to revolting scenes like the one in an audio recording obtained by ProPublica in which children at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility can be heard crying their hearts out and screaming “Mami! Mamita! Papá! Papá!

And, instead of consoling, an agent jokes in Spanish: “Well, we have an orchestra here. What’s missing is a conductor.”

That’s the caliber of people in charge of these children and carrying out Trump policy.

A 6-year-old Salvadoran girl’s voice rises above the wailing repeatedly begging to call an aunt to take her. She knows the number by heart, she says.

She’s ignored until a female (identified by ProPublica as a consular representative) enters to let her make the phone call, but then eerily, the question becomes: Where has the girl gone? You don’t get a final resolution. It will hurt your heart; make you throw up breakfast to hear the entire tape of these inconsolable children ripped from parents.

These aren’t “child actors” reading a Democrat-written script, as the disgusting talk show host Ann Coulter described these suffering Central American children who’ve come to our border seeking asylum from unspeakable violence in their homelands.

It is Trump himself — and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — who are, not only carrying out this inhumanity, but are doing it with a cynical smirk on their face when they defend it (often times lying about the facts) in front of the cameras.

President Trump can end the separation policy tomorrow if he wants to, but he’s using the children as a bargaining chip to get his wall funded in Congress — and to stoke xenophobic fears into the midterms.

Instead of heeding the calls to stop this as evidence of inhumane treatment and lost children mounts, Trump has only doubled down on the dehumanization of innocents, tweeting Tuesday that these souls fleeing for their lives are here to “infest our Country.”

The only infestation I smell is wafting from the White House.

Follow me on Twitter, @fabiolasantiago

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