A federal judge recently ordered children who have been held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody for more than 20 days to be released by July 17. But demonstrators protesting for immigration reform outside Dallas City Hall on Saturday say that order isn't enough.
"This is a victory, but it also creates a situation where we can have more trauma for these families," said Sean Paul Segura, a community activist. Segura was one of the main organizers of Saturday's protest and recently ran for Texas' 33rd Congressional District seat, losing in the Democratic primary. "What we need is for the parents and the children to be released."
The order essentially upholds the Flores Settlement Agreement, which requires children being held in detention centers that don't meet certain quality-of-life standards to be released within 20 days. The order cites the spread of COVID-19 at the detention centers that the children are set to be released from in mid-July. Two of the centers are in Texas and the other is in Pennsylvania.
According to the order, 124 children were in these detention centers as of June 8. There were an additional 507 children in Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities as of June 7.
Between the two Texas facilities, 15 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Eleven of those are detainees at the center in Karnes City, about 55 miles southeast of San Antonio, and the other four are employees at the center in Dilley, about 70 miles southwest of San Antonio.
Protesters held signs reading "Fuck ICE" and "Families Belong Together." Roberto Marquez, an artist who goes by the name Robenz, set up one of his pieces to serve as a backdrop to the speakers at the demonstration. He said his art is influenced by his activism.
Mecole Guerra, another protest attendee, said the order raises more questions than it answers. "It didn't specify where the children are being released to," she said. The order states that the children must be released to "available suitable sponsors or other available COVID-free, non-congregate settings. "It never said [they are] being released to their parents."
Guerra also said there are a lot of people the order doesn't apply to, and she doesn't know what hope others have of being released next.
Several of the speakers at the protest on Saturday, including Segura, have also appeared at the recent, long-running local protests against police brutality. During their turn at the microphone, they spoke about unity between the two movements.
"When [the police] kill a black person, they're killing Latinos. When they arrest a black person, they're arresting Latinos," said Carlos Quintanilla, a local activist.
Quintanilla and several others urged attendees to register to vote so their voices can be heard in the political process.
"We need you to organize," he said.
An organizer of the protest walked through the crowd registering people to vote.
One of the last speakers was longtime local activist Olinka Green. Last year, with other activists, Green traveled to Brownsville to visit people who had recently been released from ICE custody. When ICE agents let the people off the bus, volunteers gave them blankets, food and cellphones so they could call their loved ones.
Green said that some of the people she met had been in detention for 130 days. She said the protesters in the crowd outside Dallas City Hall need to use their privilege to fight back.
"We talk about white privilege. I'm about to tell you about your brown privilege in this city," Green said. "You have privilege enough to put your life on the line and use your resources to help those that are on the other side of the river."
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