UPDATE: The owner of a Florida auto shop where a 15-year-old hid after trying to escape from a detention facility is now receiving hundreds of death threats.
Owner Frank Gonzalez said even his family is being targeted.
After Gonzalez spotted the girl in a corner, he told reporters she refused to leave. Noticing she "seemed pretty scared," Gonzalez called his sister and an immigration advocate to put her in touch with a lawyer. But as police began driving by the shop, he flagged one of the officers down.
“She told the police officers to please don’t touch her,” Gonzalez said. “The police officer talked to her in Spanish and treated her like a human being, like his daughter. He told her, ‘Mama, you have to go back’ and then put handcuffs on her like a regular human being, not like a criminal.”
She was then returned to the facility without further complications.
Because Gonzalez flagged the officer, the death threats started pouring in. But according to Homestead Police Detective Fernando Morales, if Gonzalez hadn't done what he did, he would be "subject to arrest and could be charged with obstruction of child custody.”
Some of the angry calls the shop is getting are from people threatening to throw bombs.
“I’m going to bomb your building. I’ll find your family and I hope you die,” one caller said.
“So this is the address of the cowardly boot-licking f*** who called the cops on an immigrant girl who escaped from a concentration camp,” another person wrote on Facebook.
Talking to reporters, Gonzalez said that while he supported President Donald Trump, he no longer believes the president is right after his administration implemented the zero tolerance policy at the border that separated thousands of families.
It's unfortunate that people are using serious threats of force and even death against Gonzalez and his family, but it's also heartbreaking that children like this 15-year-old are being forced to live away from their relatives and, sometimes, in very dangerous environments.
Hopefully, those targeting Gonzalez will see that these threats are not helpful. By the same token, Trump supporters may see this policy and its consequences as a great reason to stop supporting the president, just like the auto shop owner did.
President Donald Trump’s cruel zero tolerance policy resulted in hundreds of children being separated from their families. While the policy has been rescinded, many children still await their parents in detention facilities across the United States.
One such immigrant girl reportedly ran from a facility in Florida and hid inside a nearby auto shop.
The 15-year-old asylum seeker, who has not been named, ran from the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children. She made the escape while she was being driven for an eye exam, according to Homestead police department.
According to police spokesperson Fernando Morales, the girl darted away from the detention facility employees while she was exiting the vehicle that took her to the clinic. The incident happened near Gonzalez Auto Care.
As reported by The Washington Post, the police were informed of the girl’s hideout by the auto shop’s owner, who informed the authorities the scared girl was inside — hiding behind a tool box.
Frank Gonzalez, the shop’s owner, told the police the girl was crying as she entered the shop and kept crying while she tried to hide from the Florida facility employees and law enforcement officials.
Gonzalez said calling the police on the girl was a tough decision, but one he had to make with a heavy heart.
“It broke my heart to see the girl panicked and scared, not knowing where her father or mother was,” Gonzalez said. “It’s safer for her in detention than out on the streets with no family. It was a hard decision.”
The girl was then placed back into the facility, according to the police.
At least 109 children have reportedly tried to escape detention centers between October and May, according to The Washington Post. It was also reported “most or all” children were returned to their facilities, while some may have been lost in the system.
Undocumented children, some of them unaccompanied minors while others who were separated from their parents at the U.S. border, have been displaced through the country by the Department of Homeland Security.
The safety of these children at the detention centers and the psychological effect of separation from their loved ones have been blasted by critics after the implementation of the cruel immigration policy by the Trump administration.
This particular facility is located at the Homestead Reserve Air Force Base and houses more than 1,000 migrant children between the ages of 13 and 17. This is a temporary facility where children stay for an average of 25 days.
Ever since the rescinding of the “zero-tolerance” policy amid sever backlash, the Trump administration has struggled to reunite immigrant families, with many parents deported without their children.
Banner / Thumbnail : REUTERS, Loren Elliott