It has been over two years since the Trump administration’s “family separation” policy was first widely reported in the press. The issue doesn’t make news anymore — in fact, just this week, the ACLU and the federal government filed a new status report showing the parents of 518 children are still missing. Meanwhile, the Trump administration continues to pursue family separations despite an injunction against the policy by San Diego-based federal judge Dana Sabraw.
That court filing shows the search for families has essentially been frozen because of coronavirus concerns. For those parents who are rightfully stressed about living with their children 24/7 during coronavirus, take a moment and imagine having no idea where your children are, or if you’ll ever see them again. Now do that while a guard at your detention facility dies from COVID-19. And all this because you legally came to the United States to apply for asylum.
The detention facilities holding other asylum seekers are rampant with coronavirus outbreaks. Those who are detained have no idea if their asylum hearings will proceed, or whether they will be put on hold because these hearings are too dangerous for immigration judges. They wait for a court case that seemingly never comes, sitting in detention facilities without any idea where their children are.
The situation has gotten so bad that not even inspectors want to go into the facilities because they are afraid for heir own safety. More than 2,500 people in these detention centers have tested positive. They are being sprayed with HDQ Neutral, a toxic chemical that causes nausea, bloody noses, and severe skin burns.
It’s no wonder many immigrants are afraid to get tested for COVID-19 because they think they will get deported.
It is easy to blame President Trump, and you should. But two years after this was first widely reported, it is not enough to blame the person in charge for this inhumane and tortuous policy. At some point, the men and women of Immigration and Customs Enforcement need to be held accountable for their roles. So too, big companies that run detention centers and profit off this torture and misery.
I am a Mexican-American woman raised in City Heights. Living in a place invisible to most San Diegans has taught me to keep my eyes open. It’s also taught me that unless you force yourself to be seen, you will remain invisible.
This Saturday at 2:30 p.m., I will use my voice for those who can’t, the ones who are here to support their family and seek asylum. I will stand for the abolition of ICE because the agency has shown over the past two years that it cannot be trusted. I will stand for the ones who are here for “the land of the free.” The ones that have been separated from their families for only trying to give them a chance at a better life. I will stand for the ones who wanted to join the American family, and were instead separated from their own families.
I hope you will join me.
Gabriela Rojo Lopez is a 24-year-old Mexican-American woman originally from Los Angeles who has been living in San Diego since the age of 12. She is the organizer of “The Battle of the Kids in Cages,” which is scheduled for Saturday, July 11, at 2:30 p.m. at Waterfront Park, 1600 Pacific Coast Highway.