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Activists Sit In at Sen. Kaine’s Office to Demand Release of Families Detained at Berks for 1+ Year

StorySeptember 07, 2016
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We get an update from Mohammad Abdollahi, immigration activist, on sit-ins planned today at the office of Senator Tim Kaine by formerly detained women, calling on him to release families from the Berks County Residential Center. They want the Democratic vice-presidential candidate and other senators to write personal bills that could allow the families to live with relatives in the United States while their cases are pending.

Latest news: This morning after we broadcast, Central American mothers began a sit-in at the office of Sen. Tim Kaine to protest the treatment of other women and children at Berks. See an interview with one of them on Democracy Now! last year.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we wrap up the show—we’re going to continue our discussion with you both after the show and post it at—we’re joined on the phone by Mohammad Abdollahi, who’s an immigration activist working to support families in detention in Texas. He’s part of protests planned today at the offices of people like, well, Senator Tim Kaine in Manassas, Virginia, who is, yes, Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential running mate. Can you talk about what you’re calling on Senator Kaine and others to do right now?

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: Yeah, absolutely. So, we’re here in Washington, D.C., and for the last two weeks we’ve been calling on Democratic leadership to take action on the families. We’ve heard a lot of words. We’ve heard a lot of promises. But in reality, what the senators have the power to do this very moment, since the Senate is in session, is they can introduce a private bill for each and every one of these families, and that will automatically defer their deportations for the duration of the congressional session. It’s a very easy thing to do, and it’s something that they can do to put their words into action. And unfortunately, we’ve been getting nothing but closed doors from this Democratic leadership.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Feinstein has done this before?

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: Senator Feinstein routinely introduces private bills. Every year, she introduces dozens of private bills. And there’s other senators across the board that introduce these private bills for families that are in this specific situation, where they’ve exhausted all their legal options and there’s nothing else happening and the administration is not budging. This is a routine action. They’re refusing to do it for these families.

AMY GOODMAN: So what are you doing at Senator Kaine’s office?

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: So, at Senator Kaine’s office and the other senators’ offices, we’ve been meeting with them, and we’ve pretty much told them that later this week there’s going to be a civil disobedience action with undocumented mothers who have been released from other family detention centers, that are going to stage a sit-in in one of their offices, demanding immediate action. At this very moment, we’re looking at Senator Leahy’s office, we’re looking at Senator Sanders’ office and Senator Warren’s office, all where we have families that are detained at Berks, that have lived half of their lives as children in this jail. And we’re going ask them for action. And so, the senators need to be aware that we are going to get action, and they need to step up and be champions for these families.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And you’re picking these particular senators because there are folks detained who are from their states?

MOHAMMAD ABDOLLAHI: Absolutely. We have families that are from Boston, and we have families that are from Vermont. We have families from California. And yeah, these are offices that they’re not doing what they are saying in the press that they’re doing, that they stand behind these families. You know, words are great, but when you can introduce a private bill that will stop their deportation this very moment and you’re refusing to do that, you know, people need to know.

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammad Abdollahi, we thank you for being with us. We will certainly follow what happens at that action at Senator Kaine’s office. Dr. Allen Keller, thanks for being with us, and Bridget Cambria, immigration lawyer representing many of the families detained at the Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania. We’ll do Part 2 of our interview after the show and post it at Special thanks to Democracy Now!’s Renée Feltz, as well as Laura Gottesdiener.

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