Rallies planned to protest migrant detention centers

DOVER — Hundreds of Delawareans are expected to join many more Americans nationwide Friday in rallying to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies, specifically the use of detention centers.

As has been heavily reported by the national media, thousands of would-be immigrants, some of them seeking asylum, have been detained in U.S. Border Patrol facilities after being caught attempting to cross into the United States by way of the southern border.

The migrants, some of whom are minors traveling alone, hail from Mexico and several Central American countries.

The conditions in the sites have been described by some legislators and advocates as horrific, with the facilities even being referred to by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, as “concentration camps.”

Government inspectors and outside lawyers have judged at least some of the detention centers to be overcrowded with the children there being kept in unsanitary and unsafe conditions.

As of the end of March, according to Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, the crisis had reached “unprecedented” levels, with 13,400 individuals in custody.

Citing an unnamed senior Border Protection official, Reuters on Wednesday reported many children picked up along the border are now being transferred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In response to the detentions, Friday rallies are planned in Wilmington and Camden, with more than 300 people expected to attend the gathering in Delaware’s largest city, according to its organizers.

Called “Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Concentration Camps,” the rallies are part of a nationwide protest. Ranging from local political parties to labor unions to religious groups, a variety of organizations and activists are seeking to highlight what they see as unconscionable abuses.

“The Trump administration’s immigration policies and detention camps meet the United Nations’ definition of genocide and crimes against humanity,” Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin, an organizer of the event, said in a statement. “Congress is refusing to stop the president and his policies. We cannot allow these atrocities to be perpetrated in our name.”

Locally, Camden Friends Meeting will hold a special worship, followed by a candlelight vigil, beginning at 8 p.m. at its meeting house at 122 E. Camden-Wyoming Ave. In Wilmington, the demonstration will take place at Rodney Square from 7-9:15 p.m., with a host of people, including County Executive Matt Meyer, scheduled to speak.

Coby Owens, a local activist who serves as CEO of the Youth Caucus of America and is involved in planning the Wilmington rally, said the events are a successor of sorts to the Families Belong Together protests that took place June 30, 2018.

The rallies are somewhat decentralized, the product of grassroots efforts, although Mr. Owens said at least one demonstration is scheduled in every state. Several are also planned to take place in other countries, he noted.

Interest has been growing for the Wilmington rally, with an anticipated audience of 300 to 400 people, Mr. Owens said.

“It’s just, one, un-American, but two, it’s literally a humanitarian crisis that’s happening right now. It’s pretty much what side of history are we going to be on,” he said.

A CNN poll last week said 74 percent of Americans view the situation at the border as a crisis, with 62 percent of individuals reporting disapproval of the administration’s handling of migrants.

According to the poll, Americans are divided as to what exactly is causing the crisis, however: In all, 43 percent said it’s the treatment of migrants while 46 percent pointed to the sheer number of people trying to cross illegally.

Though the migrants are breaking the law by trying to enter the country, many steadfastly believe they deserve better from the U.S. government.

“Regardless of how one may look, how one may talk, at the end of the day we are all human beings and we should be treated with respect,” Mr. Owens said.

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