Port Charlotte woman witnesses migrant child detention
Between March 2018 and August 2019, more than 14,300 unaccompanied immigrant children were sheltered at a facility just outside of Miami.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement calls this the Homestead Temporary Influx Facility, but Port Charlotte resident Vielka Wambold calls it a prison.
When Wambold, a retired mother who grew up in Panama, visited the facility Easter weekend, the fences were tarped. Onlookers, or “witnesses,” had to stand on ladders to see what was inside. Visiting congressmen and congresswomen couldn’t get inside. All Wambold saw was a field with kids playing soccer — normal.
But she kept looking, watching the kids playing or milling about, all under the supervision of guards. The kids would have to be scanned in to their tents to sleep, to go outside to play, to even go to the bathroom. Teenagers looked to be obedient in a way teenagers just typically aren’t.
“It was surreal,” Wambold said. “It reminds you of any adult prison yard.”
Wambold went to Homestead after following former Brooklyn resident Josh Rubin’s experience on Facebook at a similar facility in Texas: Tornillo.
Rubin’s journey was then documented in a 62-minute documentary called “Witness at Tornillo” by Carbon Trace Productions, a non-profit corporation dedicated to documentary education for college students.
The movie will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Regal Town Center Stadium 16, 1441 Tamiami Trail in Port Charlotte.
“(The documentary) isn’t about the immigration or asylum laws,” said director Andy Cline. “It’s about a guy who started a particular form of protest. This form of protest is specifically designed to encourage the people involved in separating children, and facilitating that act, to reflect on their actions.”
“I think this whole shameful episode will go down in history as an atrocity. You can fully support our immigration and asylum laws — even support stricter laws — and still be angered by the immoral act of separating a child from its parents. I don’t think that’s a right versus left issue. I would find it disturbing to discover that any of my fellow Americans are comfortable with harming children as a matter of political policy.”