The faces of migrant children who have died in or as a result of detention at the southern border span the front lawn of the city’s historic South Church.
According to published reports, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8, died on Christmas Eve 2018 from influenza B. He’d lived in a one-room house in a rural farming village in Guatemala. He loved to read, count, play soccer, and sometimes, he accompanied his father in the fields to plant corn and beans.
One-year-old Mariee Juarez crossed the border with her mother in March after fleeing violence in Guatemala. Seventy days after arriving in the U.S., she died from a respiratory infection her mother testified she contracted in the immigration detention facility.
Designated as an unaccompanied minor, 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez died alone in detention in May. He loved soccer and music, the bass and piano. His family called him Goyito.
The signs were inspired by ones already displayed by the Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass. South Church member Janet Polasky happened to walk by them along Massachusetts Avenue recently on her way to work on the book she’s writing about refugees and asylum.
She emailed the minister, who responded immediately and provided her with the templates for the signs, which South Church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, has since reproduced with its own touches, including United Nations statements on asylum and the text of the sonnet featured on the Statue of Liberty.