OSCAR LEON: Slowly but surely, the victims of the catastrophe we are witnessing began to recover their humanity, the very same humanity that Trump and so many white supremacists before him had worked so hard to deny.
DONALD TRUMP: They’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you, they’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists. I’m going to build a wall, going to build a wall. We need the wall. And Mexico will pay for the wall. But we have some bad hombres here, and we’re going to get them out.
OSCAR LEON: But the leaked audios of crying children tore the soul of the U.S. of A. and showed to the world a naked image of who really were these “bad hombres” fueling the rhetoric by the president. Univision Spanish’s reporters quickly found the aunt of “Alison,” one of the children we hear crying on the recording, and while she chose to remain anonymous, she said:
AUNT OF ‘ALISON’: I feel great sorrow, my heart broke. She is my blood. I feel powerless. I spoke to her, and she told me everything that was happening, and I couldn’t do anything. As of now, we have no news of her either. We know she is in a shelter-detention institute. We have tried to follow up with them and they won’t give us any information about her, like where she is. My sister, who is detained in a different place, she does not know either.”
OSCAR LEON: This picture by Getty Correspondent John Moore went viral as an instant classic of the dehumanization of those migrant families. Univision also found Denis Varela,the father of Janella Varela,the two-year-old little girl crying on the picture, the younger of four siblings and the one that made the trip with her mom.
DENIS VARELA HERNANDEZ: The picture by photojournalist John Moore, it broke my soul. I can tell you my soul broke in pieces. To see my girl like that… right away I knew, I said, oh no!”
OSCAR LEON: On Wednesday, president Trump signed an executive order that ended the separation of children but perpetuates indefinite incarceration and “zero tolerance” policies. However, the fact that the families will be kept together can make the world of a difference for the next wave of children, who like a hostage being released by its captor, will not face the ultimate torture as a welcome to the land of the free and the home of the brave.
The policy of violence, incarceration and denial, conducted on cue by the maestro of showbiz, had begun leaving a trail that shook the hearts of everyone who listened to cry of the children. Infinite sadness quickly turned to rage.
BOB INGRAM: Kidnapping of children crossing the border with their parents, and they are being held hostage for to build a wall. And I think that is abominable and un-American, and I think all Americans need to take every chance they can get and speak out against it.
OSCAR LEON: Shadow Rock UCC and Central United Methodist Church, two progressive churches, called for a Father’s Day rally on Sunday, June 17.
DOUG HANDLONG: My children go to their schools and see all shades of people. We are no longer just a white country, we are a melting pot of many different shades. So, that’s what our children see, that’s the lens they see through, is not just a pure white lens, but it’s various shades and colors. And it is a beautiful thing.
OSCAR LEON: They called for a town hall meeting where many chosen speakers shared their first-hand experiences. The indignation towards Attorney General Jeff Sessions using the bible to justify child separation and imprisonment was still evident
MICHAEL STANCLIFF: Anybody can crib a biblical passage to support their position. The fact of the matter is that is if you want to talk about the bible, through the scriptures there is the command to be kind and to accept and to love immigrants.
OSCAR LEON: Michael Stancliff, a scholar and activist and one of the organizers of the event.
MICHAEL STANCLIFF: This is not an isolated incident. There are events, protests, vigils happening all over the country this week. And we are part of this movement to push back on these policies which recall the worst moments in United States history.
People seem to be finally paying attention to what is a much broader problem, which is an immoral and dysfunctional immigration policy.
OSCAR LEON: Germina Sanchez made this symbolic cage to carry in arms during the march.
GERMINA SANCHEZ: I wanted to send a message for the community to realize the conditions under which kids are being held in detention centers. Those children are in a cage, and that to me is inhumane because they are children. I know of a number of families that have been separated, the dad taken away. And I feel an immense pain every time I hear about family separation.”
OSCAR LEON: At the church town hall, people talked about the case of Marco Antonio Muñoz, thirty- nine years old from Honduras, who reportedly took his own life in a detention center on May 13 after his children were ripped away from his arms and he was placed in a padded cell. Many more cases were brought to bear, giving a name and a human identity to those often identified as “illegal aliens.” The people in attendance were outraged.
SPEAKER ONE: I am a human, and what we are doing to these families is not human.
SPEAKER TWO: I have two children of my own, and I would be extremely upset if they were to be ripped away from me as they are doing at the border.
SPEAKER THREE: It is definitely a violation of human rights. Sadly, our history has had a lot of human rights violations, and this is unthinkable. I think people feel powerless, like what will it do if I yell and scream? But we have to, we have to do something. You can’t just walk by. And we can’t feel powerless, we have to do something, anything to force change, and awareness is first.
OSCAR LEON But on the buildup to this point, not everybody was on board. In fact, this scene has been almost the same for over a decade; the indignation is new, the cages with families and children in them are not. J. Murieta is a security contractor, from Tucson, Arizona, I have personally meet before. Among other types of facilities, he has also worked on the Provisional Detention Centers. Responding to my inquiry, he wrote:
J. MURIETA: I worked on three contracts with ICE and BP, and this was no different than the scene is now. I’m talking about it being over ten years ago. I worked those contracts. This isn’t new, nor is it only occurring due to the current administration. This happened in the Obama and Bush administrations and started with the Clintons.
OSCAR LEON: The presence of unaccompanied minors in these detention centers for small periods of time has been a common occurrence over the past decade. A wave of unaccompanied children from Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador have been knocking on USA’s doors, feeing gang violence, escaping recruitment and assassination threats and poverty.
These children, unlike past immigrant waves who avoided the Border Patrol), immediately surrender at US ports of entry, forcing its legal processing and release under any relative’s care if they had any. Thus, the presence of unaccompanied children at these facilities, an experience that Murieta, a hard man by any standards, who manned those facilities over the last decade and trains law enforcement in martial arts, described as “heartbreaking, to say the very least.” Murieta experienced how challenging it was to keep children and families detained, even for a short period of time. Trump’s executive order ends family separation but ensures indefinite detention.
The recent escalations in number and severity of human rights violations is well documented and denounced by public and private organizations of a broad spectrum, foreign representatives and even the United Nations. The move by United States on Tuesday June 19 to abandon the UN Human Rights Council signals yet another step into a trend of human rights violations.
DEMONSTRATORS: Say it loud, say it clear. Immigrants are welcome here.
OSCAR LEON: From Phoenix Arizona, this is Oscar León.