This is not America as we know it
Hundreds of activists and community organizers from across the United States rallied in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to protest the Trump Administration’s new policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at U.S. borders.
Among the speakers was Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-WA, who is believed to be the only member of Congress to have met recently with mothers who have had their children forcibly removed. Last Saturday, Jayapal met with approximately 170 immigrant women who are being held in a federal detention facility just south of Seattle.
Jayapal reported that in some cases, federal officials used deceit and trickery to separate the children from their mothers – for example, telling the women that they were being taken away for a shower or to be photographed, and then removing the children while they were gone.
“In many cases, they were standing in a room next to their children. They could hear (the children) screaming for them.”
“These individuals need to be released right now,” Jayapal added. “They need to have credible fear hearings and they need to be released to their families. That’s all there is to it.”
In early May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy that calls for separating children from their families, even when the families legally present themselves at the border with a request for asylum because they are fleeing gangs and other danger at home. And the number of children being separated is on the increase – so much so that federal authorities are running out of space to house them and are considering erecting tents on the grounds of three Texas military bases.
Against this backdrop – some might call it a humanitarian nightmare – speakers at Wednesday’s rally decried the nation the U.S. apparently has become.
“It is humbling to be here, knowing what our government is doing at this very moment to children,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Network President and Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “So many people keep saying, ‘This is not America.’ But at this moment, this is exactly who we are. But we can change. We can change this moment.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-IL, said he “cannot think of an act more cruel and more inhumane than to rip a child from the arms of her mother. She comes to the U.S. not illegally, but following one of the great traditions of this country, to seek asylum from abuse and from torture.”
A number of members of Congress attended Wednesday’s rally and demanded that federal officials release the children they are holding.
“We want to know where the children are so that we can go see them,” Rep. Gutierrez said. “We want them as quickly as possible released from custody so that they can be reunited with their moms and dads.”
Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-NY, thanked the advocates who organized Wednesday’s rally, which preceded a protest march to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection building, where civil disobedience was planned.
“This is not America as we know it,” Crowley said. “What they are doing is committing psychological torture against children who are being forcibly separated from their parents. And it will be scarring those babies for life. But it will also scar our nation. This is not humane. It is cruel. It is torture.”
On Thursday, protests against the Trump Administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy that forcibly separates children from their parents will be held in more than 60 towns and cities in at least 43 states plus Washington, D.C. To see if there is an event near you, go here and enter your state or zip code.
In D.C., a protest will be held at the Upper Senate Park from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Go here for more information.