By Miriam Raftery
Photo, left: Child migrant detention facility in El Cajon
July 8, 2018 (El Cajon) – Activists are organizing a protest rally Tuesday, July 10th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in front of El Cajon’s City Hall (200 Civic Center Way) to call for a public hearing on a federal internment facility holding immigrant boys, including some who were separated from their parents at the border and others who arrived as unaccompanied minors.
The activity is part of the national #familiesbelongtogether movement following disclosure that thousands of children have been separated from their undocumented immigrant parents at the border. Following exposure in media, children as young as one year of age have been ordered by the government to represent themselves at immigration hearings and some parents deported without their children.
“Our mission will be to apply extreme and persistent pressure upon the El Cajon City Council to hold one or more Public Hearings providing full discloser as to population welfare, and operational practices, of El Cajon's Migrant Youth Internment Facility," organizers state on a Meetup page for the event.
The migrant youth internment facility on Broadway Street in El Cajon is operated by SouthWest Key Inc., under contract with the U.S. Office of Refugee Re-Settlement. The internment facility became operational in secret, under the cover of bureaucratic darkness. The population welfare and operational practices are largely unknown to the public, though a Congressional delegation was allowed to visit last month but members were prohibited from speaking to the children.
No toys or comfort items were observed, and efforts by a local community volunteer who contacted the federal government asking permission to launch a toy drive for the children has gone unanswered, the woman told ECM.
The Trump administration began a zero-tolerance party earlier this year, requiring prosecution of every undocument immigrant at the border, stating this was intended as a deterrant to illegal border crossing. Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor, not a felony, and no other misdemeanor offenders are punished with having children as young as two months of age taken away with parents unable to contact or even learn the whereabouts of their chldren.
The policy has been denounced internationally as inhumane treatment of children. The Trump Justice Department has even taken away children of refugees who arrived legally requesting asylum at the border after fleeing violence in their homelands.
Court rulings in the past two weeks revealed that the federal government lost track of thousands of children and did not keep records to reunify parents. A federal judge has ordered reunification but thus far, the government has failed to reunify the vast majority of families and is now reportedly doing DNA testing of some children. Some were turned over to foster care via an adoption agency run by the family of Trump appointee Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education.
A city official, speaking on background, previousy told ECM that the federal government had refused to inform the city where the detention facility was located, with city staff and councilmembers learning about it through media reports.
Attendees at the rally Tuesday are urged to “bring your voice of freedom.” Participants are urged to meet at the west side of City Hall downtown, not at the internment site, to avoid further traumatizing the children detained there.
A second detention facility in East County is in Lemon Grove, where girls are reportedly housed, but no officials have been allowed inside, leading Congresswoman Susan Davis to sign a pointed letter to the Trump admnistration with other seeking information on the welfare of young girls taken from parents at the border. Nationwide, not a single girls' facility has allowed members of Congress to visit, accordnig to national media reports, raising disturbing questions about why the girls are being hidden from oversight and why boys at the El Cajon facility have been banned from speaking with the Congressional delegates that also included local Congressman Juan Vargas. Democrats in Congress are taking actions to try and protect the children and end the separations, but Republicans have been silent or obstructive of such efforts.
One activist posted at the event site on Meetup, where the public can RSVP to participate, “On June 15, 2018, I looked over the fence of El Cajon's Migrant Youth Internment Facility. I peered down into the activity yard and saw what was maybe 20 male adolescents and two young boys playing soccer. The 2 young boys appeared not to be taller that 30 inches. I observed the boys from a sight line angle of approximately 20 degrees above them. My impression was that the 2 youngest boys were 5 or 6 years old.”
The site continues, “These are defining times for the Citizens of El Cajon and for Citizens through out our United States. When any part of our government commits human rights violations, such as 'Family Separation' and 'Migrant Internment', our response to those atrocities defines us.
When our City aids and abets those Human Rights Violations by permitting the establishment of internment facilities to incarcerate those we have victimized, our response to that form of governance defines us.”
The group says it aims to address two issues. See below for details off their Meetup site:
The policy of separating children from their parents as a deterrent to asylum seeking families is a Human Rights Violation. The Office of Refugee Re-Settlement privatizes contracts to companies likes Southwest Key Programs Inc. for purpose of the establishing and maintaining migrant incarceration facilities. The El Cajon Migrant Youth Interment Facility is operated by Southwest Key Programs Inc. under contract with The Office of Refugee Re-Settlement.
The American Public and the Citizens of El Cajon have a an overriding right to know, and a need to know, what takes place behind the fencing which shields this internment facility from public view.
Are there any infants incarcerated at this facility?
Are there any "Tender Youths" incarcerated in this facility?
Why was this internment facility established in secret?
Are there any victims of Family Separation incarcerated in this facility?
If so, when will those victims of Family Separation become re-united with their families?
PLEASE JOIN US! AND SPEAK LOUD AGAINST THE CITY OF El CAJON'S ABSENCE OF TRANSPARENCY WHILE FACILITATING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THIS INTERNMENT FACILITY.
Cruel and unusual punishment for the commission of a crime is unconstitutional. Yet our government appears to believe cruel and unusual punishment in deterrence of a crime is not.
The City Council of El Cajon has a jurisdictional responsibility for what goes on at this facility. Incarcerating infants, toddlers, or "tender youth" should never be conditionally permitted in any Conditional Use Permit in the United States.
We must demand that the city review the activities at this facility.
We must ensure that any separated children are immediately returned to their parents, and the facility is prohibited from imprisoning children or otherwise facilitating the recently directed separation policy...