Residents Rally Outside YFT, Call for Immigrant Children to Be Reunited with their Families

| July 30, 2018 | 0 Comments | News

A few residents hold signs calling for immigrant children separated at the border to be reunited with their families. (Photo by Stacy Shaw, Bristow Beat.)

The Alliance for Family Reunification (AFR) of Prince William County in cooperation with other groups held its second candlelight vigil and rally outside Youth for Tomorrow in Bristow, Thursday evening.

They were protesting the separation of children from their families by the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

The Trump administration was given a court deadline of July 26 to reunite all children separated at the U.S.-Mexico boarder with their families. When not all families were united, people around the country responded in protest.

AFR chose Youth For Tomorrow, a group home that provides counseling for teens in crisis, as the site of its protest since the facility housed, and may still house, approximately 15 immigrant children* who were separated from their families at the southern border.

New reports indicate the Department of Homeland Security may have difficulty finding the information needed to unite all families and approximately 460 parents have been deported without their children. As a result, Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], who needs to work with the Office of Refugee Resettlement [ORR] and the Department of Homeland Security [DHS], may place some children into foster care.

Former Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] John Sandweg told CNN last week that it is likely that some children will likely not see their parents again.

This greatly concerns many people including Prince William AFR organizer Rhonda Reese, who decided to organize a protest. She felt compelled to make her voice heard as a citizen of the United States and of Prince William County.

Prince William residents stand outside Youth For Tomorrow, calling for the reunification of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico Border. (Photo submitted by participant.)

“Some of these kids may never be reunited with their biological parents,” Reese said. “How can we sleep at night, knowing that this is happening in our own backyard and funded by our federal dollars?”

Approximately 60 residents joined Reese outside of Youth For Tomorrow, Thursday evening. They began by holding a candlelight vigil, then held signs along Linton Hall Road in front of the facility, calling for reunification and emphasizing the fact that children were without their parents. They were greeted by approving and some disapproving honks and comments by motorists.

Though she recognizes political alignments, Reese hopes everyone could be on the same page when it comes to keeping children with their families, saying she believes that in people’s hearts they all know it is wrong to separate families. “Children need their parents, and parents need their children.”

The attendees were community members who often involve themselves in activism: members of AFR, the Prince William Democratic Party, Indivisible NoVa West, the NAACP and several members of local Prince William mosques.

But the protest also attracted the attention of neighbors. One Kingsbrooke woman said she had no idea the vigil would be taking place, but when she drove past with her daughter, they decoded to join in.

“She said they can have all my juice boxes,” Ashley of Kingbrooke said, speaking for her 8-year-old daughter, Morgan.

And while some people believe Youth For Tomorrow is not to blame for housing the children, Reese believes they are complicit in participating in the separation of families.

“They have done something wrong. This is causing trauma” she said, noting their mission is to help children overcome trauma. “They may have done a good job, but they are not above criticism. They are still being detained. These kids still want their parents.”

Others believe the issue is not so clear cut and would rather keep the focus on reuniting families rather than criticizing the facility.

“It is such a difficult situation,” said Cher Muzyk, a representative of the local liberal group Indivisible NoVa West. “Clearly everyone was taken by surprise by the administration’s zero tolerance policy and the after effects; but now, the administration has had more than sufficient time to reunite these families. And despite the federal court order, they have not fulfilled their legal or moral responsibilities.”

She encourages people to vote in the congressional elections and vote for someone to reunite families and represent moral integrity.

“I think it’s important to have these vigils because we need to shine a light on this problem and get these kids back to their families. I think of it as protesting the policy not the people,” she said.

People held signs outside Youth For Tomorrow, July 26, acknowledging the U.S. Federal Government did not reunite all segregated families by the court deadline. (Photo submitted by participant.)

Christina of Immigrant Families Together was also in attendance. She works with the D.C. chapter to helps families get legal representation, get reunited with families and resettled. She said the nonprofit organization started in New York City as a grass-root nonprofit founded by a mom who was simply raising money to help immigrants whose children were detained at the U.S.-Mexican border. Chapters quickly spread across the country.

Just this week, they reunited a family in D.C.. She said it was touching. The mom is now with her children, but they still need to reunite them with the dad. She invites others to see how they can get involved.

Reace encourages more Prince William residents to make their voices heard. “We need to take the lead because it’s right here in our backyard.”

Bristow Beat has reached out to Youth For Tomorrow and Gov. Northam office to try to get more information on the status of immigrant children at Youth For Tomorrow. We will update if we receive a reply. 

Some of the people interviewed in this article chose only to be identified by their first names. 

*Correction: We previous named an inaccurate number of children who were housed at Youth For Tomorrow. There were 110 immigrant children and 15 who were separated from their parents. 

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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