Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day Vigil At The Ursula U.S. Border Patrol Processing Center In McAllen Draws Call To End The Zero Tolerance Practice To Separate Families

Hundreds of people from various cities and states from across the nation gathered outside from the Ursula U.S. Border Patrol Processing Center in McAllen to call for the end of the Zero Tolerance policy that authorized border patrol and ICE agents to separate children from undocumented parents.

By H. Nelson Goodson 
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.

June 17, 2018

McAllen, Texas - On Sunday, hundreds of activists, families and allied from the region in South Texas including from other parts of the country converged in McAllen as an organized effort to call for President Donald Trump to end his Zero Tolerance policy that has allowed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Border Patrol agents to separate children from families of undocumented parents. The Ursula U.S. Border Patrol Processing Center at the 3700 block of W. Ursula Ave. in McAllen is one of the multiple centers where children of undocumented parents are processed, held for long periods and then transferred to other facilities as part of a detention process before being deported.
A Congressional delegation by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon; Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; U.S. Representative Peter Welch of Vermont; Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island; Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin; Texas Reps. Vicente Gonzalez including Filemón Bartolomé Vela Jr. who represents the McAllen area also arrived to visit the processing center for undocumented children and spoke against the Zero Tolerance policy as well.
Julian Castro, the former Secretary of Housing of Urban Development under the Obama administration spoke on Sunday in McAllen at the Father's Day vigil against the separation of families, while in the background, a border patrol bus passed with undocumented children being transported to another holding facility.
During the vigil, George Goehl, the Director of People's Action said, “This administration has been off the rails since Day 1 but this is a new kind of off the rails. History shows us in situations like this if we do not stand up en masse and say, ‘this is not ok,” it’s hard to get back on track. Our nations’ history is marked by moments where we heeded the call to stand down hatred and racism and there are moments where we didn’t show up. This is a moment when we can and must show up and shut this down. Here’s the thing, Donald Trump can make that happen immediately, this does not require an act of Congress, he can do this today right now on Father’s Day and we demand that he does just that.”
According to the organizers in a press release, "They will call for an end to the Trump administration's cruel policies of separating parents from their children at the border and traumatizing immigrant families. This effort builds upon recent events on June 1 and June 14 and is part of the ongoing
#FamiliesBelongTogether campaign to stop the separation of families.
During the vigil​, an 11-year-old girl from Florida will share messages of support from children in her community, along with fathers and grandfathers, faith leaders and community members from around the country.
"The family trauma is countless in McAllen: authorities ripped a baby from the arms of her Honduran mother, as she was breastfeeding; 1,500 children are being housed in a former Walmart; and, as reported by Nick Miroff of the Washington Post, Marco Antonio Muñoz, a Honduran father who was separated from his wife and child, committed suicide while in detention. Muñoz fled violence in Honduras."
Click for actual undocumented children crying and asking for their parents inside a holding facility that were recorded by a consular worker during an interview with Allison Jimena Valencia Madrid, 6, and a border patrol agent in the background can be heard joking that it sounds like an orchestra and a conductor is needed. The recorded cries and pleas by children to see their parents was documented a week ago. 
Today, more than 12,000 undocumented children are being held in detention centers around the country, which includes unaccompanied children. The U.N. has condemned Trump for enacting his Zero Tolerance policy and says it's illegal. Currently, there is no law requiring border patrol processing centers or its agents to separate children from undocumented parents facing criminal charges for crossing into the U.S. or applying for asylum.
The separating of children from undocumented parents by the border patrol is turning into a profit operation (who's profiting by separating or keeping families together detained indefinitely) for a non-profit that operates a dozen facilities housing undocumented children. After the children are processed at border patrol centers including in McAllen, they are transported to detention facilities operated by the non-profit organization Southwest Key Programs Inc., which will be paid more than $458M in 2018 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to TIME. The TIME reported that, "The nonprofit, Southwest Key Programs Inc., is to be paid more than $458 million in fiscal 2018, according to the data — the most among the organizations, government agencies and companies that run a detention and care system for immigrant children on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services. Southwest Key has about a dozen facilities in Texas, including a site at a former WalMart Inc. store in Brownsville that has drawn attention from members of Congress and national news organizations."
ABCNEWS reported that it cost about $700 to house a child per day in a facility run by Southwest Key.
Dr. Juan Jose Sanchez, the President and CEO of Southwest Key made $1.47M in salary in 2017 (IRS info), doubling his salary from 2016. Southwest Key operates 83 detention centers/shelters/schools around the country and his wife Jennifer Nelson listed as Vice-president in the latest tax filing made $260,000. In the last ten years, Southwest Key has been paid $1.5B under government contracts, CNN reported.
Trump has approved for U.S. military bases to setup concentration (internment) camps that would incarcerate more than 20,000 children from undocumented parents and today, there are 2,500 children that have been separated from their parents. Reports by immigration officials have confirmed that some children have been lost in the process and don't know where they are, which many detained undocumented children aren't expected to rejoin their families.
To deport an undocumented immigrant, it costs an estimated $13K each. According to a 2015 report by the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Private Prison Corporations (PPC's) earned $3B for holding ICE detainees. An estimated 34,000 of undocumented immigrants are incarcerated daily costing between $159 to $200 each to hold in a private prison.
States do pay for most of the costs to hold undocumented detainees from their jurisdictions and the federal government reimburse the states about half.
A national day of action against separating children is planned for June 30 around the country, according to organizers.
The organizing groups included, National Domestic Workers Alliance, United We Dream, ACLU, America's Voice, People's Action, Women's Refugee Commission, Faith in Action, Fuerza del Valle, LUPE (La Unión Del Pueblo Entero), and Neta.

Images released by the Ursula U.S. Border Patrol Processing Center that were taken during the Father's Day vigil and reporters covering the vigil outside were allowed a tour of the facility.

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