Student visits border detention camp

Miguel Nunez

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Walking through the Oakton campus, there is a warm and relaxed sense of tolerance and friendliness in the air.  Students and faculty from all walks of life, race, and national origin mingle with total ease and comfort. This is the atmosphere that should permeate the entire country.

This feeling, however, is not found in every corner of the country.  

The children’s detention camp at Tornillo, TX., which I visited the first week of January, holds approximately 2,800 minors separated from their families.  There has been a continuous demonstration outside the federal facilities for the past several months.

Denise Benavides, one of the organizers of the demonstration, explained that people from all over Texas and beyond gather every weekend to express their opposition to these policies.  The largest gathering occurred on Christmas day. Participants sang songs so the children in detention would get a sense of the holidays. They built a Christmas tree out of water jugs, a symbol of support for those crossing the perilous desert.  

“I came here in November and things were really bad.  The word got out, and soon this area was full of demonstrators.  The idea of having kids in detention like criminals during Christmas was really hard to stomach.  Kids should be with their families during the holidays. We organized the protests so that this kind of thing would never, ever happen again,” said Benavides.

“Children have been separated from their families before, but only on occasion.  This is the first time the government has carried out this policy massively. I think it’s a message to immigrants not to come here,” she said.

The bad publicity about this policy has been so intense, and the demonstrations so numerous, the government is backing out.  On this day, a stream of trucks were carrying the components of one of the three warehouse-like temporary buildings where the children were being kept.

The Trump Administration has created a veritable drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric at various levels.  The lead promoter of this ideology is the president himself. His election has brought into the national dialogue a fairly large and loud crowd of intolerant and narrow-minded people.

Immigrants, either Muslim or Latin American, are being blamed for the lion share of crime and illegal drugs in America.  A quick google search of crime statistics shows this not to be true. But this administration is not one to be bothered with official information.  

The Trump Administration has put in place a family separation policy of unusual cruelty to punish families who try to migrate to America.  He has ordered the Army to the southern border to stop an “invasion” of asylum seekers from Central America. He has promoted a state of war in the public perception of the problem.  He has claimed there are Middle Eastern terrorists amongst the migrants from Central America.

“These policies must be opposed at every turn,” said Benavides.  “The government needs to get the message that this kind of thing is not right in America.  We are not the kind of people who would support these policies.”