Let us help care for the detained children

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Miami's Community Newspapers

There are 2,500 children being held like prisoners in a camp in our own backyard and, regardless of how you feel about immigration policy, we have an obligation to treat these children with dignity and humanity.

Let’s debate our approach to immigration in this country another day.

Today we have children as young as 8 years old living in a tent city where they are ushered around like inmates. They have no access to true education or recreational activities, which is very telling about how our government lacks empathy for these children, because even our most hardened criminals have access to such activities.

Nearly a month ago, the Trump administration decided to eliminate recess time for soccer games and education of children sitting in camps near the border. They said it was about money. I say this is inhumane and encourages the child abuse that media is starting to report on at these centers.

As far as the money is concerned, a for-profit business is being paid $750 per child, per day to run this detention center. The company led by John Kelly, President Trump’s recently departed chief of staff, is being paid nearly $1.9 million a day to detain these children in Homestead.

Something is blatantly wrong here. Miami-Dade County Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho, has offered to step in and make sure these children are being educated and cared for properly. This is of course logical, because the district already is providing this service at two much smaller facilities in our county, Boy’s Town and His House.

The government has responded by ignoring all concerns coming from him and other community leaders.

Congresswoman Donna Shalala reiterated the superintendent’s offer in writing and they disregarded it as well.

Our community is so generous and loving that teachers have volunteered to counsel, teach, and play with these children simply because it is the right thing to do, and they have turned a deaf ear to us as well. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of immigration, can agree that this is appalling.

These are children…young lives with emotional and developmental needs that need to be nurtured. Aside from the moral obligation to treat them with dignity, the question remains: Will we be the generation that thinks it is wise to detain children as prisoners, treat them inhumanely and throw their poor souls back into the hopelessness that they are fleeing? This is both immoral and abominable to the Americans I know who love this country.

Let the politicians argue in Congress and let us, the United Teachers of Dade, step in and help. We want to see these children get a proper education and be treated with respect and dignity. Imagine this, our underfunded public schools spend $41.27 per student for each education per day. This demonstrates that these companies are profiteering off of children and intentionally mistreating them. We want to, can, and should help.

Our concern for their wellbeing is so immense that our educators are willing to volunteer to teach, counsel, and play with these children so that their already difficult lives are not further ruined by the inhumane decisions of government officials.

Karla Hernandez-Mats is a special education teacher who was elected three years ago as president of United Teachers of Dade, the bargaining union for Miami-Dade’s 27,000 public school teachers and support staff.

Karla and UTD led the effort to pass the largest public school teacher pay raise in Miami-Dade history in November 2018 with 71 percent voter support.


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