February 3, 2020; Latino Rebels
Let’s take a moment to remember that while the Iowa caucus kicks off primary season and national focus shifts, thousands of children are still separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border and kept in cruel conditions.
RAICES Texas, an advocacy and aid organization, helped jog the national memory this week when they installed cages at caucus sites in Iowa. The cages contain dolls of children wrapped in the same mylar blankets used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facilities. Recordings of crying children—actual recordings from a facility in 2018—play on loop. If you’re finding this description disturbing, then the installation worked.
“We’re asking people in Iowa and across the country: Don’t look away from the terrors enacted in your name,” said Erika Andiola, Chief Advocacy Officer for RAICES. “Don’t look away from the kids in cages.”
NPQ readers may remember RAICES from 2018, when they raised $20 million in a few short weeks. Anna Berry noted then that the organization didn’t have a plan in place to match the scale of their newfound wealth, but it seems they have adapted well. They offered to use the money to bail out parents who’d been taken from their children at the border, leading to what some described as the largest coordinated effort to pay bonds ever to happen in a single day. The program continues, two years later.
This latest effort, though, is aimed not at families or the Customs & Border Patrol, but at voters, to remind them of the stakes of this election. Andiola pointed out that immigration hasn’t come up in the last two Democratic debates. “This is still an issue, kids are still in cages, there [are] still people right now who are in detention centers who are [on] the other side of the border in Mexico waiting for their asylum case to be heard.”
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Partnering with several other grassroots organizations, RAICES launched the Migrant Justice Platform a month ago to change the conversation on immigration reform. The platform argues that a single solution—the “comprehensive immigration reform” touted by many politicians—is not working or workable, but progress can nevertheless be made on important aspects of immigration issues like promoting workers’ rights and demilitarizing borders.
Andiola said, “There’s really no conversation of bold ideas, of really a vision for what immigration should look like.” Readers may want to consider Andiola’s statement in light of our article yesterday from Cyndi Suarez, about states of being and designing that can lead to transformative change.
To support their platform and speak more directly to voters about candidates, RAICES has also launched an action fund, according to Teen Vogue. Like Planned Parenthood and other service organizations whose work is endangered by political shifts, RAICES found it needed a 501c4 to engage in electoral activity in support of its mission.
The cages, though, are well within the original organization’s advocacy purview and were greeted with support on social media by many justice advocates. They weren’t welcomed so much by police, who were reported to be taking the cages away just a few hours after they were installed.
The Newsroom’s Charlie Skinner said, “Every two years, we drive to a fire station and overthrow the government and there isn’t a policeman in the street.” Iowa’s government overthrow is imminent, but the police are there only to remove a symbol of what the country has come to stand for. RAICES Texas will make sure they don’t forget.—Erin Rubin