Dozens Show Up At Missouri, Kansas Senators' Offices To Decry Conditions At ICE Detention Centers | KCUR

Dozens Show Up At Missouri, Kansas Senators' Offices To Decry Conditions At ICE Detention Centers

Jul 2, 2019

More than 100 people converged on U.S. senators’ offices Tuesday in Overland Park and Kansas City, Missouri, as part of a nationwide demonstration to protest the treatment of immigrants being detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The protesters demanded the government close U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement detention camps where thousands of people are being held, as well as reunite families and cut funding for family detention and deportation.

Protesters at Republican Sen. Roy Blunt’s Kansas City office stormed the lobby of the building, wanting to see him. He was not there, and security and police officers escorted the group back outside. 

The approximately 100 protesters then lined Main Street, chanting and waving signs to passing vehicles.

Dozens of protesters stormed into the lobby of the building where Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has his Kansas City office, loudly chanting "Where is Blunt?"
Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

“It’s like a snowball effect,” said Antwain Winters, who helped organize the protest. “People get caught up on something, people driving past will get caught up on it. Everybody's caring, everybody’s giving a crap about what we give a crap about.”

Victor Morales Becerra, a Mexican immigrant who is living in the U.S. illegally, told KCUR that he has mixed feelings about the turnout at the protests and wished there were more people from his community.

“I feel content to see a lot of allies out here and supporting us, but also at the same time this is such a big issue, in my opinion, just like a lot of the issues that are happening today. I feel like we can do more,” Morales said. “I always wonder what does it take for people to really come out and be outspoken about what’s really happening, and do something about it?”

Protesters were cooperating with police Tuesday. There were roughly 20 officers present, keeping people from protesting in the streets.
Credit Andrea Tudhope` / KCUR 89.3

He said he would consider the demonstration a success if it’s more than a social media boost.

“A single event does not make a change,” Morales said. “Thoughts and prayers do not make change. It is really actions, and that’s really what I’m expecting for people to do.”

Summer Becker brought her 2-year-old daughter to the protest. When the protest moved inside the building, she got past security guards and into Blunt’s office, where she said she “chewed out” his staffers.

“Nobody in the office would say anything,” she said. “ … They wouldn’t admit when he was coming or the last time that he ever spoke to constituents. They wouldn’t look it up for me. They wouldn’t give me any information on how I could request to speak to Senator Blunt directly.”

In response to a request for comment, Blunt’s office pointed to the work he has done in the past to secure emergency funding for the humanitarian crisis at the border.

Mahreen Ansari, 19, is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants. "Seeing the rise in anti-immigrant sentiment, it's scary," she said.
Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

UMKC student Mahreen Ansari attended the protest because her parents are immigrants from Pakistan. She said seeing the treatment of migrants from Mexico and Central America made her wonder about how her parents could have been treated if they came to the United States a different way.

“I’m afraid of watching the tables turn and seeing what could happen to people who are considered different,” Ansari said. “So demanding human rights for those being denied human rights is one act of resistance against a system that’s wanting to turn on us.”

The Overland Park protest was at Republican Sen. Pat Roberts’ office.  

In a statement, Roberts’ office pointed to his support of recent legislation that appropriates $4.6 billion in emergency funds “for the Department of Homeland Security for humanitarian aid and security assistance at the southern border.” His office reaffirmed his stance on immigration as supportive of stronger border security and keeping migrant families together, “while consistently opposing amnesty.”

“As congressional oversight of DHS and HHS continues, I will keep the concerns of my constituents, including those who came to my Overland Park office today, in mind,” his office said in the statement.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated Monday, July 8, to include a statement from Sen. Pat Roberts’ office. The post was also updated with Victor Morales Becerra's full name.

Christina Elias is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at christinae@kcur.org or on Twitter @eliaschristina4.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter at KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @andreatudhope