Galt native Allison Dotta joined Sacramento demonstrators on Tuesday to protest conditions at immigrant detention centers.
Dozens of activists assembled in downtown Sacramento to press for closure of the centers, claiming that the federal government has treated detainees inhumanely. More than 100 similar events unfolded across the country, where advocates for immigrant rights sought to catch the attention of congressional lawmakers who are in their home districts for a recess.
Dotta’s desire to participate in the protest was spurred by recent social media posts and news reports highlighting the conditions faced by migrant children in some of the detention centers.
“The separation of children from their parents is terrible, and to learn that migrants legally seeking asylum in these facilities are not given toothbrushes, soap and clean water is horrible,” she said.
Protesters chanted “close the camps,” and “free the children” outside the Robert T. Matsui Federal Courthouse, which holds offices for Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris.
While protesting, Dotta said she felt both a sense of urgency to draw attention to the situation and outrage at the abysmal conditions people were subjected to in the detention facilities.
“I marched because I felt that it was something I could do that would make a difference and because I believe in standing up to injustice,” she said.
The number of people attempting to cross the Mexico border has surged in recent months, despite the Trump administration’s efforts to deter illegal immigration, with 144,000 crossings recorded in May.
The House of Representatives last week approved a $4.5 billion spending bill to address a humanitarian crisis unfolding at the border.
“Regardless of how people feel about immigration, the fact is the conditions in these facilities are inhumane. People need to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and think about what is happening here. This is about human dignity,” Dotta said.
Vice President Mike Pence on June 23 said that the migrant children held in detention centers should have toothbrushes, blankets and medicine, after reports that they lacked access to these items began to emerge.
A veteran Border Patrol agent in Rio Grande Valley Texas — who did not want his identity revealed — spoke with CBS News affiliates on Wednesday about the conditions of the detention facilities, stating they were not built with kitchens and showers because people were never meant to stay in them for extended periods of time.
“Two things hit you right off the bat, the moment you open or walk through these doors of a processing area of any of our facilities: You hear kids crying, and simultaneously you get hit with the smell of people that have been there for too long,” the agent said.
Following the protest, Dotta spoke before the California Senate Judiciary Committee after learning CalPERS pension funds are invested in CoreCivic and GEO Group, two privately operated detention facilities being used to house migrants.
“I did know any of this until a group called ‘Follow the Money’ spoke during the protest, which is really unfortunate,” she said.
Dotta was inspired to become more involved with organizations involved in speaking out against the detention facilities after hearing a Japanese internment camp survivor describe the conditions of the camps and the absence of public outrage over their use.
“He said when we continue to speak out and speak up, we raise awareness to issues that would otherwise be ignored,” she said.
Sacramento Bee staff writer Elizabeth Shwe contributed to this report.