Families Belong Together
11 months ago Nicholas Rodriguez 0
The fight to end the separation of children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border has ignited a fuse within the South Florida Community. On June 30 Miami joined the national “Families Belong Together” campaign with a protest held in downtown Miami at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus. The week before, thousands rallied towards the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Minors to support the same cause.
The movement begun as a result of president Trump’s zero-tolerance policy the he announced in May. The immigration policy prosecutes all people found illegally crossing the border, thus dramatically increasing the number of immigrants being held in detention centers. The children of these immigrants are sent to separate holding facilities contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services until they can be reunited with their parents or another family member.
As a result of Trump’s policy, in May of this year, over 2,000 kids had been separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the Associated Press. What’s more, video footage from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows these kids being held in cages in a detention facility in McAllen, Texas.
The June 30 march was part of a national day of action that held similar events in cities across the U.S. Over 780 events took place according to a press release by Families Belong Together. The same release estimated a turnout of hundreds of thousands of people across all 50 states.
Equipped with posters, a Guy Fawkes mask, and fiery passion, a riled up crowd swarmed the plaza of the Miami Dade Wolfson campus. Covered by a blanket of sweltering 90 degree heat, marchers walked up Biscayne Blvd. while echoing the chant “1,2,3,4 We won’t take it anymore. 5,6,7,8 Love thy neighbor, no more hate.
The cause was one close to home for many Miamians, 68.6% of who are of Hispanic/Latino origin according to data from the US. Census. However, people of all walks of life came out to show support such as 12th generation American Jane Nevel who held a sign that said, “Grandma Says No To Kidnapping.”
“I’m a grandmother of six,” she said through tears. “The thought of any of them being put in a cage is unbearable but I feel that way about all the children so I have to come here and I think we all have to turn out to the streets so that the sleeping ones know that there are active voices.”
People of all ages were present at this rally. Those as young as 14-year-old Alex Demetriades who hopes that “the government listens and gets off their ass and does some shit,” to 79-year-old Mike LaFrance who hopes “that the country restores its human values of respect and dignity of human beings.”
Another marcher, Susan Berman spoke to the crowd with fervor and confidence in her voice in order to challenge people’s blasé attitude towards the current immigration situation.
“Those of you that stand around and say if I was alive in Nazi Germany, If I was present during the holocaust I would’ve done A, I would’ve done B well where are you now where are you now that these things are happening in your country?” she yelled.
The crowd listened to her and many other speakers that day who handed out aluminum foil tarps that people wore as shawls to resemble the blankets being used by kids in the McAllen detention center as seen in the viral footage by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
However, not everyone at the march came to support the cause. A few people at the rally came out in opposition of the march. One group drove by with signs that said “Hillary for Prison” and taunted protestors with a bull horn.
Another 27 year old counter activist, who asked to remain anonymous, showed up with a sign that said “I support president Trump.” That sign was taken from him by one of the immigration protestors who ran off with it into traffic from the Freedom Tower towards the other side of the street and managed to break off a piece of the sign as the Trump supporter ran after him and eventually succeeded to reclaim it.
“[I came] to get my side out, to get a different perspective out [and] hopefully have some debate, some discussion,” said the counter activist who called the situation a “tragedy” yet hoped people would take the legal route in order to become U.S. citizens.
When it came to presenting a solution to the problem, the counter activist wants “something that respects everyone humanely while also upholding the rule of law.” However, “I don’t have specifics,” he said.
These counter voices were few and far between however and were drowned out by the 400-500 other ones who called for an end to family separation and the reintegration of asylum seekers into the community.
The June 30 protest was preceded by another, larger march that took place on June 23 and was held in Homestead, Fl. The march begun at the corner of 288th St. and 137th Ave. and ended at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Minors.
What started as a conversation on Father’s Day about the outrage they felt at the current situation ended up in a 4,000 person, mile long, march. Millie Raphael was one of the brains behind the conceptualizing and execution of this protest. Having been an activist already, she used her contacts and the power of WhatsApp to organize a coalition of about 45 organizations to put on what Millie thinks was a successful protest, all in the time span of a week.
“This really was as passionate plea from everyone involved for the American public to stand up and let their voices be heard because at the end of the day, every voice counts and that march showed us that,” she said.
People from all walks of life came out including families and their children even their four legged ones. Protestors made their way down the streets of Homestead, carrying signs and banners whilst chanting “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here.”
Popular amongst the rally were jackets/signs with variations of the phrase “We Really Do Care” in opposition to Melania Trump’s recent controversy over her choice to wear a coat that read “I Really Don’t Care Do You?” whilst visiting an immigrant detention center.
As they reached their final destination, the temporary shelter, they left a band of stuffed animals outside the holding facility. The crowd eventually dispersing as rain came down on the marchers.
These protests occurred even after president Trump signed an executive order in June to reunite the children with their families.
“He’s not going to be separating families but its still what is he going to do send them to detention together? That’s still no place to have any children,” said Natalia Jaramillo, communications strategist of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
As to how these children will be reunited, the consensus amongst protestors and activists seems to be the same, there is no plan in place to reunite these families.
“To be honest with you it’s a lot of talking points right now even from the elected officials that I know that I speak to to try and find out what’s real solutions that we can put on the table,” said Michael A. Hepburn who is running for U.S. Congress. “Folks are saying nice stuff but they don’t know. To be very honest with you they don’t have a plan.”
Senator Ted Cruz has proposed the Protect Kids and Parents Act that would, amongst other things, provide an expedited process for asylum cases so that people who come to this country can be reviewed and either granted asylum or be deported all within the span of 14 days thus reducing their stay in detention.
However this solution has not fared well with the community either. “These cases need to be taken very seriously and expediting the process under that legislation really just means expediting deportation,” said Thomas Kennedy, deputy political director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.
The process for being granted asylum normally should require an interview that takes place after application and a decision should be made 180 days after application according to Kennedy. In the meanwhile he believes they should be integrated back into society, a sentiment shared by many at the marches.
A public hearing is scheduled for later this year to come together with lawmakers in order to hold them accountable for their promises and to strategize on what can be done to reunify families and stop detention.
“The only thing I would say to Donald trump is we’re coming for you,” said Berman.
To be updated on future developments please sign up at: bit.ly/June30sfl
If you or someone you know has been affected by the current policy or to report an injustice related to immigration please contact:
Florida Immigrant Coalition: 1-800-600-5762
ACLU Florida: 786-263-2700
Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees: 305-394-4761
United We Dream: 1-844-263-1423