Emergency release of migrant children to families

Chicago Catholic Archdiocese, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Heartland Alliance, Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement

On any given day, more than 14,000 migrant children are detained in 150+ facilities around the country. Nine of these facilities are right here in Chicago, operated by Heartland Alliance and the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. The vast majority of these children have loved ones trying to reclaim custody. However, reunification is delayed due to long and arduous investigations of these families' suitability. In the name of "protecting" the children from possible trafficking or other harms, migrant children are being held in lock-ups where they are critically endangered at this time ! We are pushing for emergency measures to reunify the children with their loved ones NOW !

Endorsing groups and organisations:

Little Village Solidarity Network
Rogers Park Solidarity Network
People’s Tribune/Tribuna del Pueblo
Chicago Feminist Action
Chicago Democratic Socialists of America - Free Heartland Kid’s Campaign
Coalition to Close the Concentration Camps - Chicago
Gay Liberation Network

Please email lavillitasolidaridad@gmail.com to endorse as an organisation
Petition by
River Forest, Illinois

To: Chicago Catholic Archdiocese, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Heartland Alliance, Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement
From: [Your Name]

As businesses, schools and social gatherings have been cancelled or closed in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the same MUST be done to prisons and jails of all kinds, including your so-called “unaccompanied children shelters.” We demand that your jails be abolished and that all children be released immediately to their families and sponsors. Refusing to do so will undoubtedly bring avoidable suffering and potentially death to the children you detain.

There is no reason to continue operating your jails, when the vast majority of the children you imprison have families desperately trying to reclaim custody. The children could be reunited with their families today! All Chicago schools have closed -- what about the school operating inside your detention centers? It is a racist and xenophobic double standard to close schools, religious services, etc while keeping your immigrant detention centers open.

Although many reports have said children are at lower risk of developing serious illness related to COVID-19, the children held in your prisons are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Before being brought to Chicago, many of these kids’ health and immune systems have been weakened by extremely strenuous or traumatic journeys crossing the border, border detention and the emotional distress of being separated from their loved ones and held against their will.

On top of this, jails and prisons are notorious for how quickly illness spreads, given their close living quarters, and the high traffic of people in and out who can bring the virus in. To make matters worse, many sources, including ProPublica have reported there is only one doctor on call at any given time for a potential caseload of hundreds of children that can be detained at all five of Heartland’s centers.

The CDC is calling for gatherings of no more than 50 people. Many of the detention centers run by Heartland Alliance and the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese contain more than 50 people. Heartland Alliance’s detention center in Bronzeville, for example, holds up to 250 kids.

Prisons and jails across the world have already reported cases of COVID-19, and many are responding by releasing those they detain, especially those at higher risk of serious illness. Officials in Ohio, Pennsylvania, California have already begun this process. Notably, Iran released 85,000 people from jail. Cook County has begun doing the same for people they consider “low risk.”

The only way to keep these kids safe is to immediately release them to their families and loved ones. Quarantines and upcoming travel bans could mean indefinite detention for these kids, meaning action must be taken now.