Human rights activists on Sunday are entering the second day of a 24-day fast in protest of the Trump administration's cruel immigration polices at the Southern border, which have left roughly 2,000 children still separated from their parents.
"We don't want internment camps in the United States. We don't want people in shackles and tent cities for a misdemeanor. That isn't justice or compassion for children," said Kerry Kennedy, president of the advocacy organization Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, to MSNBC near the prison for migrant children in Tornillo, Texas.
The group, along with La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), and bilingual multimedia platform Neta, are calling for the fasting "chain"—the idea being that after a 24-hour period, the faster passes the action on to another person. Among those who've committed to taking part already include noted actors Martin Sheen, Alfre Woodard, Levar Burton, and Evan Rachel Wood, as well as Democratic lawmakers including Rep. Anthony Brown (Md.), Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.), Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.).
While President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order ending the imprisonment of migrant children without their parents, it did little to quell outrage from the rights groups. A press statement from RFK Human Rights says that "the administration has moved toward the indefinite detention of families as the 'solution.' This is not only immoral, it is also illegal under U.S. and international law."
In the face of ongoing outrage, a statement released late Saturday from DHS said over 522 children have been reunified with their families and that 2,053 children were still in the custody. As CNN reports, the new plan means
those children will keep waiting in custody, with reunifications only happening once the parents' deportation proceedings are completed. The families will either be reunited before deportation or, if the parent is released from detention, after the parent applies to serve as the child's sponsor under HHS rules.
Every second more a child remains without their families is more trauma, stressed The Arc, an organization that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
"We are still in the midst of a civil and human rights crisis," stressed Peter Berns, CEO of the group, in a statement Sunday. "Children who have already been separated from their parents should be reunited as soon as possible. This is an urgent situation for all children involved and in many cases irrevocable damage has already been done. For children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who rely on their loved ones for care, security, and support, particularly for their unique needs, it is of paramount importance they are reunited with their families."
Rep. Lee, for her part, told reporters Saturday, "These children are traumatized," and called the zero-tolerance "barbaric." She added in a tweet: "This is a violation of human rights."
People fleeing violence and seeking refuge in the United States are being treated like criminals. Parents don’t know where their children are. Children are crying out for their parents. This is a violation of human rights. This zero tolerance policy needs to stop now. pic.twitter.com/rYkFps1uYe— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) June 23, 2018
She also spoke to CNN on Sunday about the detention centers and described what she says is a "heart-wrenching" situation: