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Dayton Advocates Mobilize In Response To Immigrant Family Border Separations

Demonstrators at a 2010 protest in Washington D.C. demanding immigration reform. Several efforts since have failed in Congress.
Nevele Otseog
Flickr/Creative Commons
A nationwide day of protest against Trump administration immigration policies is scheduled for Sat., June 30 in cities across the country, including Dayton.

Many of the more than 2,300 migrant children separated from their parents at the United States-Mexico border in recent weeks under the Trump administration's “zero tolerance” policy are being relocated to temporary shelters around the country.

Dayton immigrant advocates tell WYSO, at least so far, none have arrived in the Miami Valley.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services oversees a system of more than 100 shelters in 17 states designed to provide temporary housing for unaccompanied migrant children, typically children who enter the country alone.

Children who enter the country with a parent or caregiver but are separated at the border are then considered unaccompanied and eligible for shelter in such designated Unaccompanied Alien Children or UAC facilities. 

No such facilites are known to be located in Ohio. But Ohio may receive separated migrant children down the road if a relative sponsor happens to live in the state, says Jessica Ramos, a Dayton attorney with the firm Advocates for Basic Legal Equality.

She says she and many other legal experts are coordinating in an effort to track the movements of families separated at the Southwest U.S. border.

“Because it is a very complex system and children or parents can be shipped to detention facilities anywhere in the country, and so we’re definitely going to be keep an eye out to make sure that the children are reunited with their parents and that everyone is given their fair shot in applying for asylum or whatever the case may be,” she says. 

Ramos notes crossing the U.S. border illegally is considered a misdemeanor under federal law.

President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order to end border separations and detain families together when, “appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”

Ramos says reuniting the large numbers of children already removed from their parents is likely to take weeks, months or longer.

Immigrant-rights advocate Gabriela Pickett, one of the community organizers behind a "Families Belong Together" sister protest rally planned for Courthouse Square Saturday, June 30, says she's created a Dayton "rapid response team" to assist anyone affected by family separations who may be relocated to the Dayton area.

She says the group typically mobilizes to connect any Miami Valley undocumented immigrants affected by Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids with legal services. 

The Associated Press reports ICE announced it may seek up to 15,000 beds to hold immigrant families, more than four times as many beds the AP reports the agency currently has available at family detention facilities. 

A court order limits the detention of immigrant children to no more than 20 days, a ruling NPR News reports the Trump administration is seeking to modify in order to allow it to hold families for more than 20 days, or until their asylum petition is heard, and to shelter families in facilities that are not state licensed, as currently mandated. 

Read more about the fast-evolving situation along the Southern U.S. border. 

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding America initiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.