Thousands march against US immigration policy

Sunday, July 01, 2018

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AFP) — Thousands of demonstrators, baking in the heat and boiling mad at US immigration policy, marched across the country yesterday to protest the separation of families under President Donald Trump's hard-line agenda.

Directly across from the White House, demonstrators filled Lafayette Square park in an atmosphere of both indignation and sadness, before marching toward the Capitol.

“We don't believe in borders, we don't believe in walls,” Sebastian Medina-Tayac, of the Piscataway Indian Nation, declared in English and Spanish at the start of the rally dubbed 'Families Belong Together'.

Loudspeakers broadcast the cries of a child split from its relatives, as a Brazilian mother told of being separated from her own son.

“I missed nine months of his life and it should never have happened,” said the woman, Jocelyn, whose case dates from before the practice of separating families intensified in May.

“Shame! Shame!” the crowd responded in temperatures above 90 F (33 C).

The president could not hear the protesters' shouts, as he spent the day in Bedminster, New Jersey, at the Trump National Golf Club.

There, too, protesters gathered on his motorcade route, many of them with signs about immigration policy.

“Asylum seekers are not criminals,” said one.

Starting in early May, in an attempt to staunch the flow of tens of thousands of migrants to the southern US border every month, Trump ordered the arrest of adults crossing the boundary illegally, including those seeking asylum.

Many trying to cross the US-Mexico frontier are destitute, fleeing gang violence and other turmoil in Central America.

As a result of Trump's crackdown, distraught children were separated from their families and, according to widely broadcast pictures, held in chain-link enclosures, a practice that sparked domestic and global outrage.

Trump later signed an order ending the separation of families, but immigration lawyers say the process of reuniting children and their parents will be long and chaotic.

About 2,000 children remained split from their parents, according to official figures released last weekend.

“It's thinly veiled racism,” Dorothy Carney, 59, a middle school French and Latin teacher, told AFP at the Washington rally.

“The way for evil to win is for good people to do nothing. This is doing at least something,” said the resident of Charlottesville, Virginia

Rita Montoya, 36, a Washington lawyer, was born in California, but has Mexican origins and arrived at the protest with her two sons, aged four and two.

“We're children of immigrants,” she said. “We've been putting in our dues in this country for a long time, and this country needs to start paying us some respect.”

The mood was similar in New York, where Julia Lam, 58, joined the protest with two friends and their young children in strollers.

Lam is a mother and retired fashion designer who emigrated from Hong Kong in the 1980s.

“I think it's really cruel to separate kids,” she said.

“I am angry. I'm very sad already with what is going on with our country. I just don't see how a human being would do such a thing.”

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