National Protest Seeks to Close Immigration Detention Centers

Jul 2, 2019

By Carrie Pinkard and Ti'Anna Davis

“Babies don’t belong in cages.” “Close the camps.” “We are better than this.”

Those were the words written on the picket signs of a few dozen protestors standing in the summer heat outside U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s office as part of a national “Close the Camps” protest.

All around the country Tuesday, people gathered in front of their local representative’s office to ask them to work on shutting down immigration detention centers.

The group wants their representatives to close the camps, not fund family detention or deportation and visit the camps for themselves.

A teddy bear in a cage represented the conditions some children being held in immigrant detention centers face.
Credit Ti'Anna Davis / WUSF Public Media

Anita Abraham, one of the hosts of the Tampa event, was there with her eight-year-old grandson. She said she can’t imagine him being in the same situation as the children in the detention centers.

Abraham said one of the goals of the group is to get Congresswoman Castor to see a detention center for herself.

"We only hear about Homestead, when in reality there are over 17 immigration camps in the state of Florida alone,” she said. “We want her to witness, and we will be there to support her."

Castor was not present at the rally, but the congresswoman sent a letter to be read on her behalf.

The statement began, “President Trump’s immigration policies are misguided and inconsistent with American values. I strongly oppose the cruel separation of families and the mistreatment of asylum seekers and refugees.”

She went on to say that she cosponsored two pieces of legislation, the Keep Families Together Act and the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act. The former would permanently end the separation of children from their parents, while the latter would target the “inhumane conditions” of detention centers.

Some people at the rally said that isn’t enough.

“Representative Castor just wrote a very administrative letter about how she is doing this, and putting this bill in. I'm sorry, the time for that is over - this needs to be shut down. She's refusing even to go down there and see them here in Florida,” protestor Lisa Farris said.

Castor's office told WUSF late Tuesday night that she is planning a visit to Homestead or another camp.

People at the "Close the Camps" rally turn to U.S. Rep Kathy Castor to support shutting down immigration camps. Castor was not present at the rally, but she sent a letter to be read on her behalf.
Credit Carrie Pinkard / WUSF Public Media

Temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees didn't stop protesters from lining up outside U.S. Rep Kathy Castor's office for a "Close the Camps" rally on Tuesday.
Credit WUSF Public Media