San Diego

Protesters Call Separating Children from Parents ‘Inhumane'

The policy of separating families is an effort by the Trump Administration to deter more Central American families from coming to the U.S.

Dozens of people demonstrated outside the Otay Mesa Detention Center on Sunday morning in support of detained migrants. 

Demonstrators are speaking out against the separation of migrant children from their parents. Protesters are also calling for improved conditions inside the detention center.

“The medical facilities are inadequate,” Jennye Lopez, a 24-year-old asylum seeker from Honduras, said in Spanish. She recently was released from Otay Mesa after spending six months in custody.  

In a statement to NBC 7, Core Civic, the detention center's operator, spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist said the company does not provide medical services at the Otay Mesa facility and staff are trained to refer any medical issues to ICE Health Service Corp.

"Our immigration facilities, including Otay Mesa, are monitored very closely by the government, and each and every one is required to undergo regular review and audit processes that include ensuring an appropriate standard of living for all detainees," she said in the statement. "More than 500 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are currently assigned to CoreCivic’s eight detention facilities. This includes full-time, onsite monitors that ensure real-time accountability and ease of communication."

While Lopez waits for her next immigration hearing, she has to wear a GPS tracking device on her ankle.

She was part of a migrant caravan last year.  She came to the U.S. to escape gang violence in her home country. Lopez claims that gangs were extorting her family.

"They know we’re not criminals," she said. "We’re just leaving our country that has so much violence."

Organizers of the Sunday's protest allege there were family separations and other abuses have gone on inside the detention center.

"People don't care about immigrants and the government has this whole rhetoric that seeks to criminalize them and dismiss any claims against the government that they're putting forward," said David Abud, one of the organizers of the protest.  "So I think that's really why but it should be these are things that should be causing more nationwide outrage."

Lopez said she’s had to console detained mothers who were separated from their children.

“There were mothers who arrived devastated, and we were there to give them hope and tell them it will be OK,” she said.

The policy of separating families is an effort by the Trump Administration to deter more Central American families from coming to the U.S.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the issue this week during a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt.

“If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them," he said. "We got to get this message out. You’re not given immunity. You will be prosecuted if you come illegally.”

Elizabeth Warren, a mother who traveled from Oceanside to the border to protest what she said was the inhumane treatment of the refugees.

"This is not our America, and, honestly, it's heart-breaking," she said. "I can't believe we're doing this. I can't believe that we are terrorizing the people who came here looking for help. We're worse than the country they left."

Last month, U.S. Border Patrol agents made 51,912 arrests, according to the Department of Homeland Security. It was the third month in a row that arrests have topped 50,000.

Lopez doesn’t think the current detention policy will keep people, from trying to make the dangerous journey to the U.S.

“We will keep trying," she said. "If they deport us, we will return.”

NBC7 reached out to Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the allegations of poor conditions at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. The agency has yet to respond.

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