On May 7th, the Trump Administration announced a new immigration policy requiring children be forcibly separated from families as “unaccompanied alien children.” Outrage has been growing and peaked in the past week when a Democratic U.S. Senator was denied entry to a center where the minors are being housed. President Trump has blamed Democrats for the policy. This evening a rally will be held in Vermont calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to stop mandatory family separation.
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley visited immigrant processing centers and a child detention center in Texas last weekend. But when he was denied entry to one facility where the minors are detained, his Facebook video went viral. “This is a former WalMart that has been turned into a center for children. So behind those doors inside that WalMart are apparently many hundreds of children. I don’t know how many but why are they there? Well there because there is this new policy from our Attorney General Jeff Sessions that says when individuals are awaiting adjudication for their application for asylum they’re going to be separated from their children.”
“Why wouldn’t they let him in? What are they hiding?” Activist Nancy Braus also owns Everyone’s Books in Brattleboro. She is helping to organize a rally tonight at the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Law Enforcement Support Center in Williston where advocates will call for an end to forcible separation of families. “No matter what anybody thinks about the morality, legality or the you know any other issues related to people at the southern border imprisoning children is never okay and I think that’s our large bottom line. It’s never okay to create a prison camp for children.”
Northeast Organizing Collective Co-founder Elizabeth Deutsch says the rally is intended to raise awareness about the new Trump policy. “What we are talking about in today’s protest is this policy of ripping children from parents. These are people who are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. And here we have people who have been kidnapped or threatened or their family members have been killed and they are fleeing that kind of violence with their children looking for a safe haven. And they get to the United States and instead of the welcome that I feel is important to give other humans we are forcibly separating them from their children.”
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has called separating children from migrant families a violation of rights and international law. Deutsch finds reports on conditions abhorrent. “Ages as young as 53 weeks and I don’t know if you have seen any of the information that the Democratic Senator from Oregon has put out about touring the facility in Texas but these children are literally on the floor in cages. They’re not criminals. They’re human beings. They are not illegal. And we are talking about children.”
Migrant Justice is one of numerous groups that will participate in tonight’s rally. Marita Canedo is with the group. “We cannot be quiet about it. Even if they are happening south they might happen north. Just the fact that human rights have been violated and families have been separated it just makes sense to be part of this. It’s not only a rally but it’s getting a lot of voices together and say that we don’t agree with this injustice.”
Nancy Braus hopes the rally scheduled from 4 until 5:30 is the first of many. “What’s next? Are they going to try to imprison Muslims? Are they going to try to imprison Mexican-Americans? We don’t know. This is terrifying.”
There are no known incidents of family separations at the Vermont border.
Calls to the regional ICE spokesman were not returned in time for broadcast.