Thousands of protesters rally against family separation
Boston demonstration one of 750 in nation
Thousands of demonstrators marched from City Hall plaza to the Boston Common last Saturday to protest the separation of immigrant families and the treatment of asylum seekers at the Mexican border. The march was part of a national movement, with around 750 marches taking place across the country that same day.
While the Trump administration’s order to keep families detained together just passed, more than 2,000 children have still not been reunited with their families.
At the rally, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to the stage on the plaza in front of the JFK Federal Building and demanded that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency be abolished.
“The president’s deeply immoral actions have made it obvious; we need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality and that works,” she said.
Warren was followed by U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III.
“We are here to reaffirm something that should never have to be said,” Kennedy said. “That children belong with their parents.”
Minh Do from the Asian American Resource Workshop spoke about how immigration policies affect Asian immigrants. She said that nearly one-third of undocumented immigrants in Massachusetts are Asian, and that Nepali people in particular are beings stripped of Immigration Placement Services (IPS).
The protesters then marched from City Hall to the Boston Common, but were temporarily stopped by a small group of counterprotesters, who arrived at the protest in skintight blue face masks and black caps. They were quickly separated from the marchers by a police barricade, who encircled them in what seemed like an effort to protect them, an ironic image in a march that was fighting against the harmful effects of alt-right ideas.
The march was slightly rerouted, and the crowd was met at the Common, where more speakers took the mic and shared heart-wrenching stories about the impact of Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy.
High school teacher Kelly Gil Franco said Trump’s policies are reaching the students she teaches.
“In the classroom, we are experiencing a devastating socio-emotional impact on our students,” she said, adding that students come to school afraid their relatives will be deported.
Two of her students who graduated with honors last year are in deportation proceedings now, she said. According to Franco, BPS has one of the most diverse student immigrant populations in the state, and enrolls over 17,000 English language learners each year.
Next, a 10-year-old girl named Emily, whose parents immigrated to the United States before she was born, spoke.
“I’m happy that my parents got here safely, but some parents and children didn’t, just because they weren’t born here. And it’s not fair,” she said. She closed by saying, “Some people think children don’t know what’s happening in their government, but trust me, we do.”
A student from the Margarita Muñiz Academy read a poem in Spanish called “The Social Injustice.” One of the lines read, “Slavery has not been abolished; it has been modernized.” Her poem resonated with the crowd, both in Spanish and when it was read in English by her friend.
Sirley Silveira Paixao then shared how her family has been separated, bursting into tears as she spoke.
“I have not seen my son for 37 days,” she said through a translator. “This [rally] is very important to help us who are desperate mothers trying to reunite with their children.”
Antonio Massa Viana, an immigration lawyer, spoke more in depth about how children are being used as hostages at the border. Asylum-seekers are being told their kids will be returned to them if they turn back now, he said.
Anwar Omeish spoke about the Muslim travel ban, which was upheld by the Supreme Court a couple weeks ago.
“My mother found out last Tuesday that she may never see her father again, and now wants to go to Libya with a target on her back,” she said. “My family belongs together too.”
Omeish said that while the current state of immigration policy is frightening, it is only the next iteration in a pattern of “othering” policies.
“Muslim communities have always been a central part of America’s narrative of the menacing ‘other,’” she said. “Like the other communities we stand alongside today, we have always been a part of this country’s history of exclusion and separation.”
Among the rally participants were actresses Sara Ramirez and Connie Britton.
“We can nitpick about human beings being legal or illegal,” said Britton, “but at the end of the day our value system as Americans is not about separating families, detaining children, criminalizing children.”
Ramirez said, “I’m here for the people that cannot be here. There are a lot of people right now who are living in fear who cannot be here today. And so that’s who I’m here for.”