Billboards in four states and DC demand ICE 'free the families'

Billboards in four states and DC demand ICE 'free the families'
© Mario Peralta/Amnesty International

A project launched by Amnesty International has placed billboards in a handful of states and Washington, D.C., advocating for the release of migrant children who remain in federal custody separated from their parents.  

The $25,000 billboard initiative by the organization paid for signs in Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The non-governmental organization said it is also planning letter-writing campaigns and other advocacy measures to pressure Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials to release migrant children being held in federal detention. 

"We were looking for a home and this is where they've left us," reads one billboard in Karnes, Texas. "Demand ICE free the families." 

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Denise Bell, a researcher at Amnesty International, estimated there are more than six dozen children being held at various facilities around the United States. 

"It is very clear the government has doubled down. They are not going to release these children," Bell said. "These children are forgotten. Let's give them a name and some space." 

Bell said the new billboard project is a way for the group to "put a human face on an invisible issue."

The organization carried out a similar project late last year, placing billboards in Florida near a migrant detention facility in Homestead to mark World Children's Day.  

"We have seen this administration demonize immigrants for political reasons," Amnesty International spokeswoman Mariya Parodi said. "We have seen them try and implement a lot of policies that just shut down the whole process of asylum." 

"It helps inform the public what this administration is doing to cool intent," she said. 

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama calls on Senate not to fill Ginsburg's vacancy until after election Planned Parenthood: 'The fate of our rights' depends on Ginsburg replacement Progressive group to spend M in ad campaign on Supreme Court vacancy MORE, who has touted hardline immigration policy, signed an executive order in 2018 that ended the administration's family separation policy. 

"So we're going to have strong — very strong borders, but we're going to keep the families together. I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated," Trump said at the time.

Parodi noted Amnesty International was critical of several of former President Obama's immigration policies, but the process of amnesty under Trump has been even "worse." 

"We have seen this pandemic really hurt wages for example,"she said. "Here we are spending money to detain kids when those resources could be spent on addressing the pandemic."

The Hill has reached out to DHS for comment.