By Jelena Kopanja, FI2W contributor
MADRID, Spain — A little girl stood in tears amidst the crowd at a protest in front of an immigrant detention center in Madrid, Spain. She was wearing a white shirt with her father’s identification number: 2286. An immigrant from Morocco, the man was apprehended while filling up his car at a gas station and had been in detention at the center for 30 days.
“The kids wake up in the middle of the night asking for their dad,” said the girl’s mother, who asked not to be identified by name.
The detention center near the Aluche subway station in Madrid was the focus of a protest on June 20th, World Refugee Day, against changes to immigration law that Spain is considering.
Watch a slideshow of the protest here:
Unlike the comprehensive immigration reform being discussed in the U.S., Spain’s new laws would make things harder for those undocumented workers already here. The proposed bill would, among other things, make it more difficult for immigrants to reunite with their families, impose fines on those who assist undocumented immigrants and increase the maximum allowed detention time from 40 to 60 days.
The demonstrators –including some undocumented migrants– shouted, “Immigration law makes us unequal, we are in time to stop it!” and “Papers for all!” From behind the walls of the detention center, muffled voices of the detainees rose in gratitude. “Thank you!” they yelled back.
Unlike the United States, where immigration is at the core of the nation’s history, Spain has only recently become a destination for large numbers of foreign people. Historically, it has been a country of emigration, and it was not until a decade or so ago that its growing economy began attracting workers from Africa, its former colonies in Latin America, and more recently, other parts of the European Union. Labor demand facilitated two large-scale legalizations in the past decade in Spain.