Activists protest possible use of Moffett Field as detention center

STORY BY OLIVIA HEWANG, PHOTOS BY SADIE HINE / SPECIAL TO THE MIDPENINSULA POST

Update (Sunday, March 21): The Department of Health and Human Services has decided to pass on using Moffett Field as a detention center.

Waving colorful signs reading, “Kids Don’t Belong in Cages,” “F*ck Your Borders,” and “Free Them All,” local activists gathered outside of Moffett Field yesterday to protest the possible use of NASA’s Mountain View facilities as a temporary detention center for unaccompanied migrant children, as border officials struggle to handle a surge of migrants crossing the border in recent months.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requested NASA to determine if vacant properties at Moffett Field, specifically housing typically used for student interns, could be used as temporary shelter.

The atmosphere yesterday was one of community — the protest bringing together many different activist groups who greeted each other warmly and stood through the sudden downpour of rain together — but also outrage as protestors decried the use of Moffett Field as well as the federal policy of detention, calling for wide immigration reform from President Biden’s administration.

“They say this is a stop-gap but they have a long history of these temporary influx centers becoming permanent. And there are alternatives on the table and a lack of creative thinking on what to do about this,” said protestor Pete Weiss, an attorney for Pangea Legal Services who represents unaccompanied migrant children.

“The United States has the resources to not have to detain any of these kids,” Weiss added. “A lot of these children have actually been separated from loving family members. U.S. immigration policy will still separate you from anybody besides a biological parent that brings you to the border.”

Weiss also denounced Biden’s dispatching of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on March 14 to assist in the processing of migrant children at the border, instead calling for federal officials to work with group homes and NGOs that specialize in childcare. 

“Instead of creating these mass detention centers around the country to deal with the surge, we could be marshalling resources to send child welfare specialists to the border to quickly interview children with the person who brought them to determine whether it’s a loving family relationship and release them to await the immigration process here in this country,” Weiss said. 

Protestors also called for accountability from Biden and more drastic reforms. 

“We know the level of pain, trauma and the level of atrocities that are happening to our children are very real,” said Maricela Gutiérrez, Executive Director of SIREN, addressing the crowd. “We want to abolish ICE, we want to defund [Customs and Border Protection], and we want to dismantle detention centers, period.”

As for next steps, protestors passed around a petition urging Congress to prevent the use of Moffett Field and end all detention, and SIREN organizers said they hope to stage another protest during a future HHS inspection of Moffett Field. 

“We’re not going to stand for ICE setting up in our backyard,” said Tha Hood Squad founder JT Faraji. “We’re not gonna tolerate that sh*t in Silicon Valley, we’re not gonna tolerate any more camps opening up.”

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