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San Diego Activists Protest Use Of Former Walmart As Child Detention Center

Photo by Susan Murphy

Activist Ali Torabi with Border Dreamers stands with a group of protesters at the San Diego County Administration building to express outrage over what he says is Walmart's role in a child migrant detention center in Texas, June 20, 2018.

Despite President Trump’s reversal on migrant family separations, protests continued across the country on Wednesday, including in San Diego in front of the County Administration building near downtown.

“I’m here to take a stand against corporations that have no empathy,” said Ali Torabi with Border Dreamers, one of a dozen activists who expressed outrage over what they claim is Walmart’s role in a child migrant detention center in Texas.

“We call out Walmart. You knew that you were selling this for this purpose,” said Alor Calderon with the Employee Rights Center. “So come out and say 'never again.'”

The group of activists was small, but their message was loud and clear. They claimed Walmart knowingly sold one of it’s old supercenters in Brownsville, Texas in 2016 to a company that would lease the building to a child immigration detention center.

“You have the largest corporate structure in the United States, perhaps even in the world,” Calderon added. “You can do a lot about this.”

As of Monday, the facility was holding nearly 1,500 boys between the ages of 10 and 18, according to U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement. Many of their parents had been detained for crossing the border illegally. Some of the minors had crossed unaccompanied.

On June 14, Walmart released a statement saying, “We sold the building in 2016 to a developer and had no knowledge then of its intended use today. This is a tragic issue facing our country.”

The activists displayed documents they said prove that Walmart continues to receive payments towards the sale of the property.

They also urged people to continue pressuring the Trump Administration over immigration.

“We need to use the momentum we’ve garnered here through the 'Keeping Families Together' movement to take a stronger stand against the anti-immigration policies that this White House is putting forward and that’s what I’m hoping,” Torabi said. “I hope people still come out and take a stand, yes for the children, but also for the families here that are getting torn apart.”

San Diego Unified School Board member Richard Barrera was also among the activists. He said the board passed a resolution on Tuesday night condemning the separation of migrant families. He’s calling on families to come out to a Families Belong Together March and rally on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Civic Center.

“It’s an opportunity for students, parents, teachers to come out and show who we are as a community and who we are as Americans,” Barrera said.

“I’m here to take a stand against corporations that have no empathy,” said Ali Torabi with Border Dreamers, who says Walmart played a role in a child migrant detention center in Texas. Walmart says their claim is untrue.

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