Let Our Children Go: Families Belong Together

A first person account. Two months later, this is still a hot issue…

Vince Bagoyo, Jr. | All photos courtesy Vince Bagoyo, Jr.

Other signs read “Stop Caging Families,” and “#SchoolsNotPrisons” suggesting the U.S. government’s money would be better re-appropriated in education.

On Saturday, June 23, 2018, I went to a border detention facility located at Otay Mesa, south of San Diego to protest the current treatment of those seeking asylum from hardship and persecution in their home countries. With me were my wife and family, including our 2-year old granddaughter. The focus of the march and prayer was on the policies resulting in the separation of children from their parents and families. Over a thousand people from all walks of life marched peacefully to the detention center.

The purpose of the march was to pray and demand the following from leaders of Congress:

  1. Immediately end the inhumane and immoral practice of separating children from their parents;
  2. Immediately reunite the over 2,000 children who have been torn apart from their mothers and fathers;
  3. End the inhumane practice of incarcerating children in our country; and
    4.Replace the current system of childhood incarceration rooted in punishment and profit with a new system rooted in restorative justice and healing.
The border detention facility at Otay Mesa, south of San Diego was fronted with protesters who zealously protested against separating children from their parents in a way that lacked regard for normal human decency.

Let me explain why we felt compelled to participate. Over the past month, as details of government policies and the implementation of those policies by the leadership of our country became apparent, we began soul-searching about our response as Christians, as Americans, and as a family with our own personal immigration stories. It had been reported recently that over 2,000 children were taken from their families at the U.S. border without knowing if or when they will see them again. How can we allow our own government to treat these children and families inhumanely? Are we complicit with these policies by our silence?
The weather was hot and dry. As our family began praying and marching towards the detention center we felt: Heartbroken. Frustrated. Sad. Angry. Helpless. But we were deeply moved by the faith leaders and freedom fighters who saw the face of God in the suffering of children and parents being forcefully torn apart. The detention center was fenced with razor barbed wire and steel cyclone fencing. There were no windows. We saw none of the detainees. But we heard them. As we shouted: “Estamos contigo,” (We are with you), “No estan solos” (You are not alone), and “The people united will never be divided,” the mothers behind the walls began to shout back. We could only sob at the thought of what they left behind, what they hoped for, and how they were then met with the unthinkable—their children being taken away. No mercy, no kindness and understanding, no standing in our common humanity. And we wondered where the America we thought we knew had gone. The cries we heard from the detention center will stay with my family for a long, long time.

Slogans like “Let Our Children Go,” and “Keep Families Together” were painted on signs, and were posted on trees, and carried as signs in protest to the policy.

Our two daughters who participated in the march at the detention center shared their insights and the impact the experience had on them.

“In light of the recent events regarding immigration and the separation of children and families, I could not pass up the chance to participate in the Let Our Children Go march. For weeks my heart had been heavy, as I listened to audio and watched on the news families being torn apart; parents weeping; children weeping and in distress. I am horrified and deeply saddened that our government would direct this to happen. Being part of that march was extremely powerful and moving. As a mother of two young children, I cannot help but to put myself in the shoes of the parents. I also cannot help but imagine the trauma these precious children feel. As we marched and chanted, I thanked God that I get to hug my babies and tuck them into bed at night. I weep and pray for the families and children on the other side of the wall. I weep for the parents who are missing their children. I weep for the children who are alone and afraid, missing and longing for the comfort and security of being with their mamas and daddies. And then I weep because the leaders of our country directed this to happen. Something must change.” – Meredith Bagoyo Burns

These protesters marched arm-in-arm for justice for the detained families and children separated forcibly from their parents.

“Politics and protest were never my thing. I had the mentality of ‘It could never be that bad, and, they don’t need me there at the march.’ I was so wrong! The moment I turned the corner and heard the screams of desperation coming from inside barb wire cages, it hit me like a ton of bricks. They could hear me and it gave them hope. These people, daughters, sons, sisters, mothers were being locked up for having hope. Hope of a better life, fleeing from gangs and cartels and violence.” – Mallory Bagoyo

My family and I joined the march protesting the inhumane treatment of families.

We are so glad that our family took the opportunity to participate in prayer and protest at the detention center and to support the families who are seeking asylum. This was a blip in time in our lives, but a lifetime in the lives of these families. And so no more silence. We will share our faith—God is good and He is sovereign and we will pray for our country and its leaders. We will share our Thanksgiving in the privilege we have as Americans and our belief in democracy and the greater good. We will pray that we as Americans will extend a helping hand to those who are marginalized and families who are seeking a better and safer life for their young children. We will seek to understand those who think differently than we do and look for opportunities to dialogue in love. And we will vote and hold accountable those elected to office. After all: “Si se puede!” (Yes, we can!)

Vince Bagoyo, Jr. is the President/Owner of V. Bagoyo Development Group. He was graduated from Chaminade University (Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Business Administration) and California State University, Long Beach (Masters of Public Administration, Government Finance). His various government positions include Councilman (1991 to 1992), Director, Department of Housing and Human Concerns, and Director, Department of Water Supply. Bagoyo was previously President of Lāna‘i Holdings and Water Company and Vice President of Lāna‘i Company. He is currently Vice President of the Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation and was Chairperson of the Maui Filipino Centennial Celebration Coordinating Council. His wife Jennifer is an RN at Maui Memorial Medical Center.