Activists gathered Thursday to march around the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles in response to the Trump administration’s policy of separation migrant parents and children detained at the border. Across the country, activists gathered at similar demonstrations in the last week to demand that the practice be reversed—and the families reunited. In Los Angeles, women formed the front line.
The Los Angeles event was organized by Children over Politics, United Healthcare Workers and The Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)—three women-led and women-centered organizations fighting for the rights of immigrant youth, women and families. Staff at CHIRLA are working on a daily basis within a number of communities to reverse the one-sided narrative the Trump administration has leveled against immigrants; Children over Politics provides a safe place where youth can access community, resources and help in making a difference around the issues that matter most to them; and United Healthcare Workers West is a local union housed under the larger Service Employees International Union (SEIU) fighting for immigrants afraid to access care due to the Trump administration’s hostile policies as well as the immigrants who can’t access it within its makeshift centers.
“Trauma lasts for generations,” Hortencia Armendariz, Community Division Director at United Healthcare Workers West, declared to Ms. at the march, noting that the U.S. already has a mental health crisis, and the lasting impacts of the Trump administration’s policies will undoubtedly compound it for another generation. Armendariz is also concerned about survivors of domestic violence that are seeking asylum in the U.S.—many of whom will now be effectively sentenced to death by another recent decision by the Trump administration closing its doors to asylum seekers facing such crimes across borders.
“SEIU-UHW denounces the decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to restrict asylum to victims fleeing domestic violence in their home countries,” she told Ms. “Women and children seek protection under our country’s asylum laws based on the violence and abuse that they suffer at the hands of spouses and family members because their governments are unable or unwilling to control these persecutors. The ruling places the lives of thousands at risk of deportation, death or serious physical harm.”
“We are human at the end of the day, and we should be treated as such,” Belle Lopez, a Children Over Politics facilitator, told Ms. reporters at the protest. “The lawmakers have the power in their hands to make real changes.” Lopez intends to continue organizing young people and encouraging them to be more involved; she also wants to register more young adults to vote, organize more actions like this week’s march and help young people learn more about politics.
Although the Trump administration, due to political pressure, reversed the so-called zero tolerance policy separating families along the border, it has not yet revealed a plan to reunite those already in detention. Thousands of traumatized children are being held in vacant Walmarts and tent cities, some sleeping in bunk beds within large metal cages and spending up to 22 hours a day indoors, pleading with officials to see their parents. Experts predict some will never see them again.
Activists have been demonstrating outside of federal and local government buildings and immigration detention centers for the last week, and nationwide protests of the Trump administration’s immigration policies are being organized as part of a day of action on June 30.