More than 150 protesters gathered on Tuesday in front of the Overland Park office of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts to speak out against mistreatment of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Organized by local progressive organization JoCo MoveOn, the protest at College Boulevard and Quivira Road sought to raise awareness of conditions in the facilities and build support for closing them “the way they’re run today,” said Al Frisby, Merriam councilman and chair of JoCo Move On.
“The treatment is awful; it’s torturous,” Frisby said. “Sleeping on concrete floors with one blanket that doesn’t do a damn thing about the cold temperature. Not giving enough food. Healthcare is compromised.”
JoCo MoveOn sent groups of six or seven at a time to deliver letters to Roberts’ office asking him to speak out against mistreatment and abuse of asylum seekers. They also brought a bag of essential hygiene items such as a toothbrush and soap to “symbolize” what the asylum seekers are lacking in the detention centers.
In response to the protests, Roberts released the following statement:
“While we must enforce our immigration laws, my foremost concern is the protection of children. I have supported stronger border security and keeping together families who cross into the United States illegally, while consistently opposing amnesty. We need additional resources at the southern border to resolve the humanitarian crisis hurting thousands of immigrants attempting to enter our country.”
People who joined in the protest came from across the region, including from Prairie Village, Overland Park, Olathe and Lawrence.
“I don’t understand why you have to pick on the kids,” said Teresa Vratil of Overland Park. “I’m here for the kids. They can lock me up and let a kid free, that’d be fine with me.”
Dawn Olney of Prairie Village said she was compelled to participate in the demonstration by a desire to see the migrants basic human rights valued.
“These are people; they need to be treated as people,” said Olney. “We can’t open the gates and let everybody in, we understand that. But we need to treat them with respect and with compassion fleeing whatever they’re leaving behind in their country.”