Chesco residents demand action on Trump’s detention camps

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Protestors gather outside of U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan’s office, Tuesday.

By Lisa Longo, Special to The Times

Approximately 150 rallied Tuesday at the office of Representative Chrissy Houlahan stating a need for urgent and immediate action and to ask for the support of the Congresswoman to close the Trump detention camps amid reports of deplorable conditions for children and adults. Lack of blankets, no access to showers, insufficient food and a failure to provide toothbrushes have led to national outrage and comparisons to internment and concentration camps.

To date, six children have died while in custody. These names we must remember are 16-year-old Carlos Hernandez Vasquez, 2 ½-year-old Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vásquez, 16-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin, 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, and 10-year-old Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle. Another 20-month-old girl, Mariee Juárez, died shortly after being held with her mother at a family detention center in Texas. Her mother is now suing the government for neglect.

In addition to signing a letter to Houlahan, the crowd heard from several speakers and readings of declarations from children being held in the Trump detention camps. (see transcript of declarations included, below)

The crowd made it clear they felt a need for immediate and urgent action. There was clear consensus that there must be a criminal investigation into child abuse and neglect and the crowd cheered on calls for elected officials to be held accountable and another call for oversight of the Trump detention camps. The loudest cheer came when there was a demand for criminal investigation and charges against those who allowed these inhumane acts of criminal neglect and abuse against children.

There were clear asks of Houlahan: Will you work to close the for-profit Trump detention camps? Will you vote to halt all future appropriations involving family detention and deportation and insist there is proper oversight of all funds previously appropriated? Will you ensure all funds are used judiciously and in support of uniting families, providing humanitarian care, and not to enrich for profit corporations? Will you bear witness, demand accountability and reunite families by visiting a Trump detention camp?

After the reading of the declarations and signing the letter to Houlahan the approximately 150 attendees went to Gay Street and held signs up for passing cars to see. Many honked their horns in apparent support for those rallying.

PA06 District Director Sue Walker spoke to the crowd and accepted a letter on behalf of Representative Houlahan. A follow up meeting with event organizers is planned for Monday July 8th.

During the reading of these declarations several in the crowd openly wept, including one of the event organizers, who broke down while reading her excerpt and had to ask someone to finish reading her portion.

The crowd asked difficult questions of Walker and several included statements that they had supported Houlahan for election and now expected her to take a strong stance against the camps including daily reports and a call for impeachment hearings.

The following are excerpts from declarations filed in connection with the request for Temporary Restraining Order in Flores v. Barr 

About unsafe / unsanitary conditions

  • We are in a metal cage with 20 other teenagers with babies and young children.

We have one mat we need to share with each other. It is very cold. We each got a mylar blanket, but it is not enough to warm up. There are benches but we cannot sleep there. Sometimes it is so crowded we cannot find a place to sleep, so they allow a few of us to sleep outside the fenced area. The lights are all of the time. (Age 16, female)

  • I’m hungry here at Clint all the time. I’m so hungry that I have woken up in the middle of the night with hunger. Sometimes I wake up from hunger at 4 a.m., sometimes at other hours. I’m too scared to ask the officials here for any more food, even though there is not enough food here for me. (Age 12, male)
  • We slept on mats on the floor and gave us aluminum blankets. They took our baby’s diapers, baby formula, and all of our belongings. Our clothes were still wet and we were very cold, so we got sick… I’ve been in the US for six days and I have never been offered a shower or been able to brush my teeth. There is no soap and our clothes are dirty. They have never been washed. (Age 16, female,)
  • Three days ago my baby soiled his clothes. I had no place to wash the clothes so I could not put them back on my baby because when he went to the bathroom his poop came out of his diaper and all over his clothing. Since then, my baby of only three months has only been wearing a small little jacket made of t-shirt material. I have nothing else for my son to wear…. I have been told they do not have any clothes here at this place. I just want my baby to be warm enough. I am having to make sure I carry my baby super close to me to keep his little body warm. (Age 17, female)
  • They told us that we could only have one layer of clothing, and they threw away the rest of our clothes in the garbage. (Age 16, male)
  • My baby got wet and I had to take his pants off two days ago and I have not been able to get any pants for him. (Age 18, female)
  • The day we arrived, my baby became sick. She could not open her eyes and had a fever which got much worse during the day. I asked the guard for help and he told me to “just deal with it.” I asked for help again, and was ignored. The third time I asked, I was crying because she was so much worse I was very worried for her. After two days, they took her to the doctor.”  (Age unknown, female)
  • We have only bathed once since being detained.  On June 4th, we were taken to an area with about 28 showers. We bathed and brushed our teeth. Since then, however, we have been able to bathe. I have not been able to wash and clean my baby since June 4th. We do not have toothbrushes or toothpaste or towels in the cages. My daughter’s onesie is very dirty. I have not been able to wash it since June 4th.  (Age 17, female)
  • The day after we arrived here, my baby began vomiting and having diarrhea. I asked to see a doctor and they did not take us. I asked again the next day and the guard said “She doesn’t have the face of a sick baby. She doesn’t need to see a doctor.” My baby daughter has not had medicine since we first arrived. She has a very bad cough, fever and continues to vomit and have diarrhea. (Age 16, female)
  • At Ursula, we have not been able to shower. The toilet is out in the open in the cage, there is no door for any privacy. There is water but no soap to wash our hands. There are no paper towels to dry our hands. We have not been given a toothbrush or toothpaste to brush our teeth.  (Age 17, male)
  • I was given a blanket and a mattress, but then, at 3:00 a.m., the guards took the blanket and mattress. My baby was left sleeping on the floor. In fact, almost every night, the guards wake us at 3:00 a.m. and take away our sleeping mattresses and blankets. They leave babies, even little babies of two or three months, sleeping on the cold floor. For me, because I am so pregnant, sleeping on the floor is very painful for my back and hips. I think the guards act this way to punish us. (Age 17, female)
  • Once, I needed clean clothes for my baby because she threw up but when I asked for them I was told they didn’t have any available. She is still in the same dirty clothes. (Age 17, female)

 

Children Taking Care of Children

 

  • I started taking care of xxx (age 5) in the Ice Box after they separated her from her father. I did not know either of them before that. She was very upset. The workers did nothing to try to comfort her. I tried to comfort her and she has been with me ever since. XXX sleeps on a mat with me on the concrete floor. We spend all day every day in that room. There are no activities, only crying.  (Age 15, female)
  • There are little kids here who have no one to take care of them, not even a big brother or sister. Some kids are only two or three years old and they have no one to take care of them. (Age 11, male)

 

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