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Elders Arrested at Philly ICE Protest

Four members of ElderWitness were arrested by DHS on charges of obstructing the entrance to a federal building.  (Roz Dutton/ElderWitness)
Four members of ElderWitness were arrested by DHS on charges of obstructing the entrance to a federal building. (Roz Dutton/ElderWitness)
September 5, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – Four senior citizens were arrested Wednesday on charges of blocking the entrance to the Philadelphia headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Dressed as the Statue of Liberty, the four members of ElderWitness, say they are outraged by the Trump administration's detention of immigrant children and the separation of families.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a member of ElderWitness, was among those arrested.

"We're horrified, and as elders we think it's our responsibility to uphold the values that we grew up with as Americans and as human beings," he stressed.

In June 2018, a federal judge ordered the administration to end family separations, but the ACLU has documented more than 900 such separations since then.

Waskow said Wednesday's demonstration built on a similar protest held two weeks ago that focused on seven children who have died in U.S. custody.

"Today, what we did was recite the life stories of those seven children, plus we now have actual reports from children who have been in the camps and are still in the camps," Waskow explained.

Under the 1997 Flores settlement agreement, the administration is required to release children to licensed care programs within 20 days.

Waskow said those arrested Wednesday portrayed the Statue of Liberty as being in detention because what the statue symbolizes has become a crime.

"The crime was: I welcome the immigrant, I welcome the tempest tossed, I welcome the poor, the desperate,” he stated. “I welcome them to America."

The group is planning future demonstrations at locations around Philadelphia in the coming months.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA