100 protest immigration detention centers

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Members and supporters of People for Social Justice march from the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center to the Alpena County Courthouse to call for the release of immigrant children who are detained by the U.S. Protesters chanted “close the camps” as they marched and waved their signs.

ALPENA — Chants of “close the camps” echoed through the air in Alpena during the lunchtime hours as members and supporters of People for Social Justice marched to call for the release of immigrant children in U.S. custody being detained in holding facilities.

After the march ended at the Alpena County Courthouse, demonstrators held a moment of silence for the children being held in what the protesters describe as cages and for those who have died in those facilities.

At the courthouse vigil, guest speakers read quotes and descriptions from children who are or were in temporary custody.

The Alpena event, named the Light for Liberty Vigil and one of several being held around the country on Friday, was attended by about 100 people, some of whom carried signs blaming President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, for the controversial handling of immigrant children near the U.S. southern boarder.

Some in the crowd set up a dog kennel-type cage that had a baby doll inside, with the doll’s plastic hands gripping the bars. Before the march and chant commenced, many took pictures of the setup.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Members and supporters of the People for Social Justice express their displeasure with the U.S. practice of holding children in what they say are cages in detention centers near the U.S. southern border. A few of the protesters set up a dog cage with a doll in it to try to hammer the point across.

There was no counter protest for the event.

People for Social Justice member Judi Stillion said marches and protests are an important way to get people’s voices heard and solve matters that need addressing. She said that, if the voices are ignored, then changes can be made through the voters box.

“This fosters a sense of community, which is something I think we really need,” Stillion said. “Things like this are crucial and people need to see there are many of us that care about this issue and that it matters. This is our way of expressing our outrage.”

Kathy Bower was one of the organizers of the vigil. She said People for Social Justice is a bipartisan group committed to helping others and defending the rights of others, especially those who are unable to speak for themselves.

Bower said policy must change to address the number of kids being separated from parents and other adults as they enter the country and to address what she said are the poor living conditions for children being held by the government.

“All the people here believe it isn’t right to put kids in cages and to have them in unhealthy and unsafe conditions,” Bower said. “We want to protest and bring some light to this atrocity. I’m disappointed in Congress for its ability to act. I think there is probably one party who is a little more responsible for this than the other and we need to vote out those people.”

Bergman, who represents northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, said Friday there has been bipartisan support to provide more aid to those in the holding centers. He said he voted to in favor of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act, which provides greater border protection resources.

Bergman said that bill allocates an additional $45 million for detainee medical care, $12 million for detainee transportation to medical services, court, or relocation, and $20 million for alternatives to detention.

Bergman said that is a good start, but more needs to be done to help those in the U.S. He also said more action is needed to control the inflow of people illegally entering the country.

“Congress must work on long-term solutions to fix the flaws in our current immigration system, beginning with securing our border,” Bergman said in a written statement. “I will continue to advocate for policies that protect our communities, end the illicit, exploitative situation at the border, and preserve America’s legacy as a welcoming nation. The current humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border must be addressed. Our federal agencies enforcing immigration laws must uphold our nation’s humanitarian responsibilities while performing their duties, and it is Congress’s job to support them with the necessary resources.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.