Home » Protesters Fill Philadelphia’s Streets During DNC to Oppose Family Detention Centers

Protesters Fill Philadelphia’s Streets During DNC to Oppose Family Detention Centers

by Jeremy Holcombe

Families fleeing violence in Central America are coming to America searching for refuge. Instead of providing protection, the nation demands women and children seeking asylum be diverted to family detention centers.

The Obama administration expanded the use of family detention in 2014 as it attempted to curb the flow of asylum seeking women and children as well as discourage further immigration.

Hundreds of protesters demanded a stop to expulsions and the closure of family detention stations.

Alma Lopez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, walked through the roads of Philadelphia with her three children while several miles away, leaders of the Democratic Party soaked up accolades at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Lopes carried a sign that said, “No Más Abusos de Mujeres y Niños” or “No More Abuses of Women and Children”.

For Lopez, the battle is special.

“I’ve been trying for more than a year to hold “mi esposa” in America,” she said to Fox News Latino.

Her husband, Javier, is acceptable for a “U visa” — a compassionate visa meant for sufferers of specific offenses who experienced abuse. While Javier waits to know if his visa gets recommended, he is being detained at Pike Detention Center in Pennsylvania.

Javier’s detention forced Alma to place her children in therapy and kept her from getting work as she is the sole caregiver for the children.

“We’re struggling now so the country will stop dividing families,” Lopez said. “This is happening to everybody in my area.”

The protest which Lopez joined attracted demonstrators from as far as Georgia and Arizona. One of the more vociferous groups at the demonstration called for the closing of a family detention station outside Philadelphia.

The Berks County Family Detention Center is managed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The center, along with one each in Karnes City, Texas and Dilley, Texas, is run by ICE and holds immigrant families while they wait for a decision concerning their claims.

A fourth facility in New Mexico opened in 2014 but closed due to withering criticism.

ICE claims the compounds are not a prison but many residents disagree. The compound in Pennsylvania has been open, without a license, and is drawing strong objections from rights groups.

“The practice of family detention not only breaks Pennsylvania’s law, but it also breaks national law,” Jasmine Rivera, with the Philadelphia Latin American rights group “Juntos,” said.

“We need to watch the (Berks) Detention Center as it is shut down.”

The issue has been front and center during the 2016 presidential race. While Donald Trump has been the target of anger from immigrant rights organizations, President Barack Obama, and the Democrats have not avoided criticism.

Obama won a few key fights in the immigration battle — incorporating the implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which permits undocumented newcomers who came into the nation before the 16th birthday to obtain a two-year work permit along with deportation exemption. The president has been scrutinized for not passing any valid form of complete reform through his two terms as well as exiling over 2 million persons since 2009.

Protesters in Philadelphia told FNL that although Trump is an obvious target when it comes to migration, Hillary Clinton, and her party should not take the Latin American ballot for granted.

The latest demonstration corresponded with the opening gavel of the DNC where several undocumented aliens will speak at the Wells Fargo Center in support of Clinton.

Family detention is on the wrong side of history. The existing detention program is the largest since the Japanese-American internment in the 1940s.

“We need to keep the Democratic Party responsible,” said Olivia Vazques, a student coordinator with Juntos.

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