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Hundreds at rally ask: Where are the children?


Lynn Watts of High Point with rally attendees. Photo by Afrique I. Kilimanjaro/Carolina Peacemaker
Hundreds of Triad residents braved the heat on Saturday afternoon to gather at LeBauer Park in Downtown Greensboro in an effort to collectively raise their voices in protest against the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy against immigration and oppose the forced separation of children from their parents at the U.S.- Mexico border. Concerned people from across the United States and around the world are asking, “Where are the children?”

The Families Belong Together rally, held last Saturday in Greensboro, was one of more than 600 marches and rallies held across the U.S. to oppose President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and offer support for immigrant families fleeing their home countries seeking safety and opportunity. With signs that carried messages that read we will “Remember in November,” “Dump ICE,” and “Immigrants make America Great,” protesters participating in the rally heard from religious leaders, community activists and leaders.

The rally, organized by the Greensboro Faith Leaders Council, Temple Emanuel and Indivisible Guilford County, was held in response to recent reports of children being separated from parents at the United States-Mexico border by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents as instructed by President Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Mayra Vera, a member of Siembra N.C. and a speaker at the rally, said that the current administration’s attack on people of color has been relentless. The High Point resident, whose family is from Jalisco, Mexico, said separation of families at the border was the last straw for her and called ICE “government-enforced terrorism” for immigrant families.

“There is a target on our back and people like me are being criminalized for seeking a better life and trying to stay alive. This is what is happening on the southern border. This White supremacist administration is portraying us as criminals and gang members, separating families and holding the futures of so many hostage … as a mother I am filled with outrage,” she told the crowd.

Wasif Qureshi, outreach coordinator for The Islamic Center, said that he imagines that the experience that families are facing at the border is stripping children of their innocence. He asked rally attendees to think about the negative legacy this zero tolerance on immigration will have on America.

“The choices we make today have generational consequences. We don’t want to be remembered as the civilization that went to the moon but when people came knocking at our doorsteps who had no choice we made the choice to not let them in, to separate the families and made many of the choices that in retrospect might seem heinous.”

Greensboro-resident Jenny Marienau attended the rally to show her support for what she strongly believes is a violation of human rights.

“This country was built on migration and was built by immigration,” she said. “Immigrants are a big part of what makes this a great country. I think it is absolutely wrong to be detaining people and separating families at the border. People need to stand up and protest or else it will continue. This shows that people care about human rights in this country. I think it will show up at the ballot box too.”

Chris Garnett, a native of Philadelphia now residing in the Triad, said that as a husband and a father it was important for him to attend the rally.

“The whole situation with families being separated, people being locked in cages and such resonates with me, so I wanted to come out and show my support of the rally, movement and message that they are trying to send,” he said. “I do wish there were more people but I’m glad there are more of these rallies going on across the nation.”

For area resident Ryan Lipp, attending the rally was a no-brainer.

“I don’t want to live in a country that puts people in camps. I don’t want to live in a country that separates children from their families. American history is full of stuff like that and we should be past it at this point and it breaks my heart that we’re not.”

In a speech that reminded those in attendance of the words written in the Holy Scriptures, Rabbi Andy Koren, associate Rabbi of Temple Emanuel of Greensboro said, “It is for moments such as this that the Bible commands humanity 36 times to treat the outsider, the stranger, the alien properly. When something is commanded just once in the Bible, it is important. When it is commanded 36 times, it is a central theme of the Bible, underscoring what it means to be religious. Don’t quote me anything else from the Bible if you can’t do this: treat the outsider, the stranger, the alien, the immigrant properly.”

The oppression promoted by President Trump and carried out by Immigration and Customs officers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice and Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Health and Human Services, has not subsided as the vast majority of children, deliberately separated from the parents at the border have been scattered across the country in more than 17 states. In the first major pushback of the Trump Administration’s immigration policy, last week, federal judge Dana Sabraw of California issued a court order requiring federal officials to stop the separation of parents from their minor children. The court order requires the reunification of all parents with their minor children who are under the age of five within 14 days and the reunification of all parents with their minor children age five and older within 30 days, unless it is determined that the parent is unfit or the parent declines reunification.

As of Tuesday, July 3, the Trump Administration has yet begun in earnest to reunify children with their families. The administration also has not explained how they plan to carry out such reunifications. The order also mandates that officials provide parents contact with their children by phone within 10 days, if the parent is not already in contact with his or her child.

In the Tuesday, June 26 order, U.S. District Court Judge Sabraw wrote, “Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable harm, and that the balance of equities and the public interest weigh in their favor, thus warranting issuance of a preliminary injunction.”

Now, the eyes of the world await the reunification of these families.