Families belong together: Thousands to protest Trump policies

2018-06-30 21:07
US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. (Evan Vucci, AP)

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Washington - Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to march in protests across the US on Saturday, calling for an end to Trump's "inhumane" immigration policies and the reunification of children and parents who were separated at the border.

Under the banner "Families Belong Together", numerous civil rights and advocacy groups united to organise what are expected to be the biggest protests the country has seen yet over US President Donald Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy introduced last April.

More than 700 events are planned nationwide.

The protests come as more than 2 000 children remain separated from their families, according to a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) fact sheet released on June 20. 

Government-released videos showed children housed in metal cages and using large foil sheets as blankets. Additionally, leaked videos showing children in tears and wailing for their parents have caused widespread outrage over the policy. 

Bowing to pressure last week, Trump signed an executive order that ends the most controversial part of his harsh policy: separating children from their parents and relatives at the border.

Protests have continued, however, as questions remain over when and how families will be reunited.

A federal judge on Tuesday gave federal officials less than a month to reunite families with their children. Children under the age of five need to be reunited with families within two weeks.

The executive order is seen by many as a way for Trump to only shift his policy so that families can remain in detention for long periods of time.

Last week, the Department of Justice asked a court in California to modify a federal court ruling that said migrant and refugee children can only be kept in detention for up to 20 days.

After recent visits to detention centres, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said families were "gratified that hundreds of thousands of people were going out on the streets" in their name.

"They are heartbroken, they are angry, they will do anything to get their children back," she told Al Jazeera. "They are told they can get their children back if they drop their asylum claims. That is a huge problem. It's illegal, and they might not get their children back even then."

Katharina Obser, senior policy adviser with Migrant Rights and Justice, said the inhumane policies and separations were "not only traumatising to family members, but also severely inhibits access to asylum in the US".

"All that is on people's mind is what happened to their children," she said. "Concerns have been fear of not knowing when they will see their children."

ICE is a 'rogue agency'

Over the past few weeks a number of protests have broken out across the country.

Protesters in several US cities have set up camp outside Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) buildings, calling for the abolishment of the agency.

On Thursday, more than 500 women were arrested during an all-women sit-in at the atrium of a Senate office building. Protesters called for an end to detention camps and the end of ICE.

Congresswoman Jayapal, who has long called for the abolishment of ICE, was among those arrested.

"It's a rogue agency," she said. " They have no accountability. They are acting as a mass deportation force and terrorising families across the country."

Jayapal had doubts federal officials know how to bring families back together.

"I don't think they kept good track which children belong to which parents," she said. "Particularly children that are preverbal that cannot say parents' names or who they belong to."

At a federal prison she said a woman showed her a state-issued slip supposedly with the name of her two children, along with her own name and ID.

"She came to me with the slip and said these are not my children," Pramila said. "This is a huge tragedy."

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