Don’t Put Children in Cages! Reunite Families Now! A Message from Youth Protesters in Texas

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At Thursday’s protest in Brownsville a group of children took the stage to condemn the Trump administration for separating other children from their families. Ten-year-old Joana Aldape said, “These kids are human beings, not animals to be put in cages like those at the zoo.”

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

JOANA ALDAPE: Hello? OK. This speech, all of us four made our own speech. But I’m here with my twin today to fight for the rights for the kids that are in the—what’s it called?—the cages. And here goes my speech. My name is Joana Aldape.

JOAN ALDAPE: And mine is Joan Aldape.

JOANA ALDAPE: We are 10 years old.

JOAN ALDAPE: We are 10 years old.

JOANA ALDAPE: We have growed up being members of La Unión del Pueblo Entero, LUPE.

JOAN ALDAPE: It makes me sad and mad for our children to be separated from their parents and be placed in ICE cages.

JOANA ALDAPE: We are a family of eight. And it would be hard to be separated from my parents and siblings. I was—I went to the beach for five days with my cousins, and I missed my parents by the second day. I couldn’t wait to return home. So I can only imagine how painful it is for these little kids to be away from their families.

JOAN ALDAPE: The childrens—the children have already been through a lot just getting to the U.S., often getting illnesses on their journey and not eating for a long time.

JOANA ALDAPE: These kids are human beings, not animals to be put in cages like those at the zoo.

JOAN ALDAPE: Children should be having fun in the sun, like going to the beach and playing soccer.

JOANA AND JOAN ALDAPE: So let’s reunite families now!

VICTOR RICARDO PLUA: My name is Victor Ricardo Plua. I am 9 years old. Every day, when I wake up in the morning, I say good morning to my parents, my grandma and grandpa. I love my grandpa. He has taken care of me since I was born. Now that I am older, my grandpa picks me up from school, drives me to jiu-jitsu practice and teaches me how to build things.

My grandpa came to this country to have a better opportunities. He was a farmworker, a construction worker, and washed cars. These are jobs that are hard to do, that are sometimes paid less than minimum wage. My grandpa has contributed to this country like any other citizen.

But, unfortunately, this country does not want people like him to live here. This is why I am afraid. I am afraid that my grandpa will be deported and I will never see him again. So, every night, before I go to bed, I pray to God for everything that I have, and I pray that I will have another day with my grandpa.

This is why I’m here today, because I do not agree with what this government is doing to my community. They are treating us like criminals. No family, no child should live in a world filled with fear—fear of guns, of shootings, of bullying, of being beaten, deported or torn apart from their families.

To all children, to all the families who are being hurt, who are angry and sad like me, you are not alone. We are not alone. Our love and voice is our strongest weapon. And together we have the power to change what this government is doing, to make sure that we live in a world without fear and harm. Humanity has no borders!

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: We’re going to have Lorella speak next.

LORELLA PRAELI: I’m going ask you all to close your eyes for a second, to trust me and close your eyes for just a couple minutes. And keep your eyes closed. Take some deep breaths with me. Feel the power in this park.

CHILDREN: [crying] Papi! Papi! Papi! Papi! Mami! Papi!

LORELLA PRAELI: Have you heard that before? Raise your hand. Those are our children. Now, the U.S. government wants us to forget what they’ve put kids through. They want us to forget what they’re putting parents through. But we’re here to say, “Not a chance.”

CROWD: Not a chance!

LORELLA PRAELI: Not a chance. They’re betting on us going home and forgetting what is happening to families as they make plans today to jail families together. That’s what’s happening. Not a chance.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Lorella Praeli, director of immigration policy and campaigns for the American Civil Liberties Union. While she played the audio of the children crying, protesters began to weep themselves, some with visible tears streaming down their faces. This is Democracy Now!, broadcasting live from the U.S.-Mexico border. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: John Coltrane, from his newly discovered album, Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album.

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