Poignant exhibit in Detroit honors 'thousands of separated immigrant children'


  • Steve Neavling

A woodland of hundreds of toys, dolls, teddy bears, and other stuffed animals are spread throughout the front lawn of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in the Cass Corridor, with a large banner hanging across the background that reads, “For the thousands of separated immigrant children.”

The installation, a poignant visual representation of the thousands of children who have been separated from their families under the Trump administration, was erected on June 1, and will be dismantled by the end of next week, according to the church.

Elaine Roseborough, 86, the innovator behind the idea, worked with the advocacy group Indivisible Fighting #9 as well as Amnesty International to complete and put up the installation, which was originally placed in Ferndale last month.

The installation was recently moved to the First Unitarian Universalist Church in the middle of a heavily populated Midtown.

Roseborough says she created the display to continue conversations about the Trump administration’s current family separation policies, which have come under intense scrutiny.

“I was concerned about the treatment of the children when it first became public knowledge last year, and it seemed like it was falling off the news cycle and people were forgetting about what was happening,” Roseborough says. “We felt that it was meaningful to have a visual display that would raise public awareness of the enormity of the problem.”

Just two weeks after his inauguration in January 2017, President Donald Trump and his administration began considering separating immigrant children from their parents who cross the border as a way to discourage asylum seekers. Since then, nearly 3,000 children have been separated from their families, and more than a thousand of those children's whereabouts were unknown at the time due to poor record-keeping.

Last year, the U.S. State Department concluded that separating children from their families increases the likelihood of those children being trafficked.

“Children in institutional care, including government-run facilities, can be easy targets for traffickers,” the department’s annual Trafficking in Persons report concluded.

While Trump ended his policy of separating asylum-seeking children from their families, hundreds of children remain detached from their parents.

With a growing number of undocumented minors, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it is running out of space in their facilities to house children. The Office of Inspector General recently slammed immigration officials for conditions in many of the facilities. Inspectors found nooses in detainee cells, inadequate medical care, unreported security incidents, moldy and dilapidated bathrooms, rotting food, and the premature and inappropriate placement of detainees in disciplinary segregation.

Just recently, the HHS said it would activate the Fort Sill Army Base for emergency shelter, a place that was once used to imprison Japanese-Americans during World War II.

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