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Locals join march to end child detention

By DANIEL SUTPHIN

STAFF WRITER

“To see, witness and let it be known that people are watching.”

That’s the reason Ted Zawistowski and 10 other Charlotte County residents traveled to Homestead on Sunday to join the Mother’s Day March to End Child Detention.

The march took place in the afternoon outside the 75-acre Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, which can accommodate over 3,000 immigrant children.

“Thousands of children without their mothers through no fault of their own,” said Sushila Cherian of the group. “It’s a diabolical situation.”

Vielka Wambold of the Charlotte County

Protesters carrying signs along North Indiana Avenue in Englewood Sunday afternoon. Margaret Doyle is one of about 20 people protesting that more than 2,000 immigrant children are being held in detention by a private company in Homestead, Florida.

SUN PHOTO BY SANDY MACYS

Democratic Hispanic Caucus organized locals for the cause, which consisted of members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Charlotte County, Englewood Indivisibles and unaffiliated residents.

Wambold, in a Charlotte County Democrats May 7, 2019 report, said, “The vigil is to shine a light on the harm being done to these children by the Trump administration’s immigration policies.”

More than 2,500 children currently are held with approximately other 500 to 700 children expected to arrive within weeks, according to Wambold.

“Obviously this problem with the immigrants has been around for a long time and the conditions as we hear from around the country, often times, are very bad,” said Zawistowski, a member of the UUFCC’s Social Justice Committee.

“Our goal is to go and see for ourselves as much as we can, given the circumstances there,” Zawistowski said. “We want to let it be known to the people that are locked up there and to the authorities that the public cares and we are here to see what is going on and to let them know that we are watching.”

Since opening in March 2018, over 8,300 unaccompanied alien children, or UAC, have been placed at the Homestead site, and more than 6,300 have been discharged to a “suitable sponsor,” according to an April 1 press release issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who are responsible for the care of the immigrant children.

As of March 30, there were approximately 2,000 children, ages 13-17, staying at the Homestead facility, HHS noted. This number changes on a daily basis as children are referred mostly by U.S. Department of Homeland Security,and others are released to a sponsor.

“The UUFCC went there some weeks ago, “ Cherian said. “I am told when we get there that we will not be able to see the children close up or have any contact with them because it appears they have draped the chain link fences with quilts so that no one can see inside the facility. “

The previous group took ladders with them to see the children, along with large signs stating “We love you” and “Big Hearts,” among others.

Sunday’s group was armed with megaphones, balloons and signs with similar messages for the march.

“We will make some noise so that they (the federal government) know that we are around,” Zawistowski said.

Email: dsutphin@sun-herald.com

Dubbed “The Sign Lady,” Charlotte County resident Diane Allen brought signs protesting the government’s detention of immigrant children in Homestead. She also has similar signs posted in her yard.

SUN PHOTO BY DANIEL SUTPHIN

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