Iowans on their way to caucus in Des Moines on Monday may encounter a reminder from a leading immigrant and refugee rights advocacy group: in the midst of the Republican Senate’s sham impeachment trial, threats of war with Iran, and other imperial presidency horrors, abuses at our southern border and in detention facilities across the U.S. continue.
“We put up a dozen chain-link cages in the city, placing them outside caucus sites, media offices, and other prominent places in the city, like city hall,” RAICES said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “These cages have fake children inside covered with mylar blankets, symbolizing the children jailed in detention along the border and throughout the country. Each cage includes a #DontLookAway sign and plays an actual recording from a child who was kept in detention.”
RAICES, which in 2018 donated millions to assist in the reunification of families separated by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, seeks to keep a focus on anti-immigrant policies that, in just a few examples, have jailed record numbers of people in inhumane Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities (and in direct defiance of congressional limits), contributed to the in-custody deaths of a number of children and other vulnerable populations, and blocked the U.S. and international rights of asylum-seekers.
“We’re doing this as the administration has broken records in immigration detention by keeping up to 55,000 people jailed at once, and has sent back more than 60,000 people to Mexico to await their asylum hearings in conditions that are utterly depraved, as we have been documenting for months,” RAICES continued in the statement. “We’re doing this as the Trump administration has quadrupled workplace raids that target people holding a job and paying taxes in this country.”x
Today caucus-goers in Iowa woke up to more than a dozen kids in cages all over the city of Des Moines. We came to remind people that this remains a reality & that the issue cannot be pushed under the rug.Ã°ÂŸÂšÂ¨ #DontLookAway this is a humanitarian crisis.Ã°ÂŸÂšÂ¨#IowaCaucus pic.twitter.com/munyjrXdIS— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) February 3, 2020
We need the presidential candidates to #DontLookAway at what is happening with migrants. Family separation needs to be in the front. Caging families needs to be in the front. You cannot continue to ignore immigrants. #IowaCaucus https://t.co/INMWeQnRPF pic.twitter.com/y8xi99Mzsc— RAICES Action (@RaicesAction) February 3, 2020
This isn’t the first time RAICES has used installations to call attention to the rights of immigrants and refugees. At the 2019 South by Southwest Convention, the group recreated the notorious “ice boxes” where migrants are initially held by Border Patrol, and then later that year installed cages across New York City. “We’re replicating the action in Des Moines at the height of the most anticipated caucus in modern history,” RAICES said. “We’re doing this because almost no politicians in this country are laser-focused on immigration. While some do far better than others, the horror at our border still goes ignored far too often, absent from the policy debates and statements from elected officials.”
But our nation’s immigration system doesn’t have to be this way. The group points to its Migrant Justice Platform, which pushes for major changes to our current and unjust system, including “a full moratorium on deportations, an end to immigrant detention, citizenship for all 11 million undocumented people in the country, demilitarization of the border, the dismantling of ICE and CBP, and the formation of truth and reconciliation committees examining the human rights abuses committed against immigrants by past administrations,” the group said.
“The horrors at our border and throughout our immigration system are too often ignored by the public and politicians,” chief advocacy officer Erika Andiola said in the statement. “We’re asking people in Iowa and across the country: Don’t look away from the terrors enacted in your name. Don’t look away from the kids in cages, the asylum-seekers turned back at our border, the deportation raids destroying communities across the country. This anti-immigrant crackdown has to end.”