Standing outside Bethany Christian Services, a Grand Rapids agency that has taken in 50 immigrant children separated from their parents, the head of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP called for reunifying the kids with their families.
“Babies are being ripped from their families by our government,” said the Rev. Wendell Anthony, head of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, one of the civil rights group’s largest and most influential branches. “This policy and practice must end now. This policy is unacceptable. This should not be what our nation is about.”
— DETROIT BRANCH NAACP (@DETROITNAACP) June 26, 2018
Rev. Anthony, who has led the Detroit NAACP since 1993, compared what the immigrant kids are facing to what African slaves experienced. He was joined at the news conference by other religious leaders, Latino advocates, and other supporters.
“This process of separation even found its way through the Middle Passage on Southern plantations and in Northern cities,” Anthony said. “We are aware of the effect of separation because they still are visibly aware in the stress and trauma existing in our communities today. This is precisely why we can relate to and support the efforts of our Central American brothers and sisters who are victims of this unnecessary and inhumane policy.”
Anthony was surrounded by supporters holding up signs that read: “Stop the Abuse Against Minority Families,” “This is kidnapping,” “Let the Children Free. Don’t Destroy Families,” “America’s better than this. Children are not Pawns,” and “End the Contract.”
Bethany Christian Services contracts with the U.S. government.
The NAACP also delivered a truckload of supplies for the kids, including backpacks, toys, and other items. Other groups that supported today’s news conference included the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, Arab American Civil Rights League of Dearborn, UAW, and LASED (Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development) of Detroit.
After taking in the immigrant children, Bethany has been sending the kids to homes with foster care parents. Some of the immigrant kids have been crying out: “Where’s my mom?”
In a statement released through a public relations company, Bethany Christian Services said of the NAACP’s rally that it “is in full agreement with the NAACP that children should not be separated from their families and we will not rest until those who have been separated are reunified with their families. That has been and will always be our first priority. We’ve had brief conversations with the NAACP — and have invited them to meet with us — to discuss how our two organizations can work together to create a powerful voice to further advocate for these vulnerable children and their families. We hope to continue these discussions. For it is only by working together that we can truly make a difference.”
The news conference came the day after a federal judge in San Diego said the U.S. must move to reunite the more than 2,000 separated immigrant children with their families.
Asked by the Free Press what it is doing to reunite the children in their care, a spokeswoman for Bethany referred to a Q&A memo she emailed that read in part: “We will not rest until every separated child in Bethany’s care is safely reunified with family. Our mission has always been, and will always be, to keep and bring families together.”
The Q&A said it is working with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“We have been informed by HHS that separated children will be reunified with their families and are working with HHS to ensure children are safely reunified with families,” said Bethany Christian Services.
Rev. Anthony also said he and others are sending a letter to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder asking him to try and help reunite the children, urging Snyder to write to President Donald Trump and Congress to unify the families and stop separations.
Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said: “We have received the letter and will respond with the limited information we have available about the federal unaccompanied children program. The Governor agreed that a solution out of Washington is needed for reunification, since it is a federal policy.”
Before holding their news conference outside Bethany, the NAACP gathered at First Park Congregational Church for a rally. A security guard at the church blocked the media from attending. He gave reporters a letter from Park Church signed by the Rev. Todd Petty saying the church does not support “any action perceived as a protest against agencies” like Bethany Christian Services.
A spokeswoman for Bethany Christian Services also emailed to the Free Press a copy of the letter signed by the Rev. Petty that opposes any protest against Bethany Christian Services.
Contact Niraj Warikoo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-223-4792. Follow him at @nwarikoo
(c)2018 the Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.