While an audio recording of detained migrant children crying played in the background, teenagers in T-shirts that read #ClassroomsNotCages stood in a metal cage outside the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva Monday to protest the Trump administration's "cruel" immigration policies.
The action was part of a demonstration that aimed to draw attention to the U.N. Human Rights Council's consideration of a complaint (pdf) filed last year by unions, faith organizations, and human and civil rights groups about the "inhumane [U.S.] policy of tearing immigrant children from their families who come to our borders seeking asylum and protection."
"Children belong in school and with their families, not caged in detention centers," says a website for groups that filed the complaint, which include the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Public Services International. "We must let the UNHRC know that this cruelty and these human rights abuses cannot be ignored."
AFT president Randi Weingarten was among those who addressed those gathered in Geneva Monday.
"In the past five months, 2,500 children have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. This is despite a judge's order to stop and to reunify the children," she said, according to Reuters. "Six children have died. We are saying to the Human Rights Council: Hear us and help us!"
.@rweingarten outside the UN in Geneva, demanding the Human Rights Council take action on our human rights complaint against Trump’s family separation and caging children policies. #ClassroomsNotCages #FamiliesBelongTogether pic.twitter.com/AGSM3tbU4l— AFT (@AFTunion) June 17, 2019
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Alfonso Cepeda Salas, secretary-general of SNTE, a Mexican teachers union, added: "We are here to express our profound indignation at the policy of separating children from their families. Enough, no cages for these children!"
#SnteGlobal— Snte Nacional (@SnteNacional) June 17, 2019
El mundo debe tener escuelas inclusivas para migrantes The world must have inclusive schools for migrants #SNTE Alfonso Cepeda #FelizLunes #BuenLunes #BB21 AMLO #ClassroomsNotCages #55strong @UNICEFEducation @eduint @AFTunion #RSAGER #NIGFRA #JIMIN #RT pic.twitter.com/kaTL8a7QPn
Organizers are urging people across the globe to send letters to the UNHRC—which the Trump administration ditched last year—to "let council members know that we expect them to stand up for these innocent children who are being subjected to this unimaginable cruelty."
The protest follows a slew of recent incidents that demonstrate the human rights crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border—including, as Common Dreams reported Friday, the neglect of a teenage mother and her infant by Customs and Border Patrol and the death of a seven-year-old girl believed to be from India.
Earlier last week, Trump administration officials revealed plans to detain migrant children at a former Japanese internment camp in Oklahoma because an "influx" of minors has overwhelmed shelters throughout the country. A spokesperson for the administration told Reuters Monday that some 13,200 children are currently in U.S. custody.
In an effort to more quickly release migrant children—both those who came to the country without parents and those who have not yet been returned to their families after being forcibly separated under the administration's "zero tolerance" policy—the Department of Homeland Security recently eased its vetting rules for sponsors, who are often U.S.-based adult relatives.
Outside the U.N. office in Geneva Monday, protesters carried signs that said: "Children should not be locked up. Period."