About sixty moms and dads – and their kids--gathered outside the Immigration Customs Enforcement office downtown Thursday morning for a “playdate” protesting the separation of migrant families arriving at the US Mexico border undocumented.
With shakers, drums, and harmonicas kids ranging in age from one to 11, sang “This Land is Your Land” with their parents and drew with side walk chalk outside the immigration office.
They waved signs with legends like “Human Kind; Be Both.”
Mike Hachey was on his way to drop off his three-year-old son, Gabriel, at day care before going to work, but he stopped at the demonstration first.
“It’s outrageous that kids his age and younger are going to court proceedings- their own hearings – without their parents,” he said. “To see kids separated at the border, to see people treated so brutally and inhumanely, we have to speak up and we have to stop it”.
Gabriel was holding a white umbrella with the words “families belong together,” written on it. At one point, he dropped it and tried to go inside the building, but his dad scooped him up and they rejoined the protest.
A few feet away, Carla, who was wearing an ICE ankle monitor, was talking on her phone. She said she arrived in the United States just a week ago from Honduras.
“It’s a dangerous country,” she said. “The president of the country hasn’t provided opportunities for jobs. There is little education for our kids, and no security for people.”
She says her sons, six and 10, are in the US with her, “Thanks be to God.”
And she also says she knows she’s lucky.
An estimated 3,000 children have been separated from their parents because of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy. In some cases, the parents have been deported, but their kids are still in the U.S.
It is believed some of those children are being held in Maryland while the administration scrambles to comply with a federal judge’s order to reunite the families.
But Maryland officials haven’t been able to find out exactly how many children are here, their names and ages, who is taking care of them, and if they are licensed to do so.
Attorney General Brian Frosh wrote to the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services three weeks ago, asking for this information. He also asked for the plan for reunification, but he’s heard nothing. And a spokeswoman says he’s not been able to see the facility – or facilities- where the children are.
Likewise for the Maryland Congress people WYPR spoke to.
One legislative aide did confirm that some children were being held by Bethany Christian Services, a Michigan-based non-profit with a facility in Crofton that specializes in foster care and adoption.
An official there would not discuss how many children were there, nor when re-unifications might take place.
Back in front of the ICE offices in Baltimore, mothers perched their kids on their hips and held signs demanding “Reunite families now,” and heaping “Shame on ICE.”
Eight year old Zack Grovogui from Baltimore was working on a drawing on the building’s front steps.
“This is ICE, this is children,” he explains. “This is ICE taking away the children from their communities.”
Then he drew a circle around the picture and scrawled an X through it. He said the thought of being taken from his parents really upsets him.