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May 9, 20

Between Exploitation and Exposure: Little Village Solidarity Network on the Fight Against Child Detention in Chicago

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On this episode of the It’s Going Down podcast, we caught up with two members of the Little Village Solidarity Network (LVSN), to speak about the ongoing fight against the Heartland Alliance in Chicago. The Heartland Alliance is a non-profit that runs a network of facilities across the Chicago-land area that jails undocumented children who have been separated from their families.

Up until recently, this network of jails was largely secret, but thanks to the tireless work of groups like the Little Village Solidarity Network, the role of non-profits like the Heartland Alliance in detaining and deporting children has been thrust into the spotlight.

From an expose on Heartland Alliance by a former staff member published on It’s Going Down:

There are over 100 prisons for immigrant children scattered around the country. They are contracted out by the federal government to social service agencies. They are officially called “shelters” but they are lock-ups. I know all this because I spent several years working inside one of these facilities operated by Heartland Alliance in Chicago.

All the official language used to describe the apprehension, detention and processing of these children is misleading: it is meant to give the impression that these children were lost from families, that they have no families or communities in the US ready to receive them, and that they require the intervention of state agencies to “rescue,” “care” for them, offer them “shelter” and reunite them with families. This is false. Majority of these children have communities and family members trying desperately to reunite with them, but the US government has found a way to sabotage their efforts and detain then unnecessarily, and I can tell you exactly why and how.

In order to recommend the release of a child to their family member, case workers must assemble a case file that fulfills hundreds of criteria, and the criteria themselves are often changing. This process is a bureaucratic nightmare. The child’s wellbeing is sacrificed in order to ensure bureaucratic compliance. Many factors prolong the detention of children – missing documents, instances of mismatch like birth certificates missing a last name, typos in documents, etc. These problems take many months to resolve and as the duration and uncertainty of the incarceration continue the children begin to fall apart.

These facilities are not there to work for the children and families – they are there to do the dirty work of the US government in tracking, monitoring and making families available for deportation.

During our discussion, we talk about the campaign against the Heartland Alliance, the recent actions on May Day, and how COVID-19 has spread throughout Heartland facilities.

More Info: Little Village Solidarity Network on Twitter and Facebook, former staff member expose on It’s Going Down

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It’s Going Down is a digital community center from anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements. Our mission is to provide a resilient platform to publicize and promote revolutionary theory and action.

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