At ‘Rally for Our Children,’ Hundreds Call for End to Immigrant Family Separations at Border

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Supporters of the "Families Belong Together" movement listen to the stories of immigrants.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Supporters of the "Families Belong Together" movement hear immigrants' stories near a display of shoes representing young children separated from their parents.

Wearing the same beige capri pants she crossed the border in as a 14-year-old undocumented immigrant, Jessica Azua wove between English and Spanish, speaking from her diaphragm when her microphone cut out.

Azua, a DACA recipient and statewide immigration coordinator with the Texas Organizing Project, shared her immigration story with hundreds of local advocates gathered Thursday at the Guadalupe Plaza on the city's near West Side. Participants carried signs pleading for the federal government to end its policy of separating family members who illegally have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

"These pants remind me that I cannot waste my time here – that I need to speak up," Azua said. "All these families want – just like mine – [is] a better life, better opportunity, and an education."

The Rally for Our Children was organized amid recent outrage over federal immigration policies.

President Donald Trump and members of his cabinet have defended the administration's so-called zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigration – or deflected the blame on Democrats. The practice of separating children from their parents after being apprehended at the border is part of an "escalated effort" to curb illegal border crossings, according to an Office of the Attorney General news release that announced the new policy in April.

A convergence of several immigration issues has prompted a wave of anger and concern, with hashtags such as #WhereAreTheChildren trending on social media. Those issues include the family-separation policy and the welfare of about 1,500 unaccompanied children the government could not locate after they were found at the border and placed with sponsors.

But early reports about these children were misleading, according to a Washington Post story this week. The roughly 1,500 children are unaccounted for because the federal government's Office of Refugee Resettlement could not verify that they were in their sponsor households after calling them by phone. Even though they are not necessarily missing, fears have arisen they could fall prey to human trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-San Antonio) called the practice of separating immigrant children from their parents "inhumane" and "barbaric" in a Tweet last week.

In the past week, several community leaders have joined Castro and others in calling for an end to the policy.

In what organizers say is the first of many nonpartisan demonstrations throughout Texas and the country, organizations such as RAICES, United We Dream, Texas Organizing Project, SATX Indivisible, and SA Stands participated in the rally. Castro,  Texas State Rep. Diego Bernal (D-123), San Antonio City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), and Mayor Ron Nirenberg spoke, as did a variety of faith leaders who called for support of the immigrant families and for a restoration of inclusive values, said Father Jimmy Drennan, of the St. Margaret Mary Church.

Emotional testimonials followed. One woman, identified only as Shuna, brought tears to the eyes of many in the crowd when she related her story of losing her brother and uncle to deportation. As she and her family have lost their Temporary Protection Status under the Trump administration, her mother faces the prospect of losing her home, she said.

Shuna, a sixth-grade English teacher who was brought to the country when she was 5 years old, said she sees her parents as heroes for risking their lives to afford her and her family the freedom she experiences today. She noted that people get murdered in her former country, Honduras, for speaking out against injustice. Shuna asked the crowd not to pity her but to fight with her.

"We don't need saviors; we need people who are going to stick with us through thick and thin," she said.

The event culminated in an interfaith vigil – participants huddled in prayer to express sorrow over the issues immigrant families from Mexico and Central America have faced in recent years.

(From left) Gabriel, 11, and Danielle Miller protect their candles from the wind with water bottles.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Gabriel, 11, and Danielle Miller protect their candles from the wind with water bottles.

Castro and others issued calls to action: Demonstrators were urged to contact U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions; San Antonio-based John Bash, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas; and congressional representatives. He said ending the practice of separating migrant families at the border was not a liberal-against-conservative issue but a humanitarian one.

"Today is not about politics," Castro said. "This is very much a call to conscience. This is about what our nation fundamentally stands for."

12 thoughts on “At ‘Rally for Our Children,’ Hundreds Call for End to Immigrant Family Separations at Border

  1. No one is mad at the parents for putting their kids lives at risk? No one is thinking, so why not get in line like millions of others waiting in desperate situations? Are any of these local advocacy groups going to recognize in the first place that people are crossing illegally? Are they in turn also advocating for better border security so that people don’t have to be in the situation of being processed by the US government after illegally crossing in the first place? I doubt they care about the welfare of the US as a whole, or the longevity of our country, or our ability to sustain an influx of millions of people and their families coming illegally. No I doubt they care if my children have less because I have to pay more for programs to support their choice to come here illegally.

    Why is what happens to the illegal immigrant children the responsibility of the American taxpayer? Any government relocation office, we pay for. How can we even begin to curb illegal immigration if we are just going to focus our resources on relocating and supporting illegal immigrant children? You’re basically just setting up the infrastructure to make this behavior acceptable.

    This article does a great job conflating the idea that illegal immigrants are completely innocent until this big scary heartless US government comes along and ruins their lives.

    This isn’t a call to conscience, it is absolutely political liberal journalism at its finest and its disgusting to use children for your political points. These illegal immigrant children are innocent yes, but it is not the US government’s fault that their country of origin is unfavorable and that we have a policy for people who want to come in.

    I can’t support people who use the pleas of the children when it is to completely cloud the matter of right vs wrong and push a political agenda forward. You force American governments hand by your own illegal actions and then point the finger while they pay for you. Disgusting.

  2. Given the 2 previous posts, can we finally stop calling the USA a Christian country? Cloud right vs wrong? Do you even realize what you are justifying? Disgusting is right.

    • You are the disgusting advocate at the tax payers expense. Shame on you. How many migrants have you brought at your house? I bet none for even a day.

  3. These families are NOT arriving illegally. They are presenting at our border stations and seeking Asylum. That is a legal method of entry. Our government is then taking their children from them. It’s cruel and it’s not American.

    • If this is true, then they wouldn’t have crossed illegally. Not everyone is following the system.

      • I wish people understand that every individual including children that comes to this country cost tax payers. It is not a ziro some game…As much as people like to help destitute people, the cost of accommodation from housing to healthcare, education (12,000 to 20,000)per child adds up to billions. The money our too indebted country does not have. Please think twice before you express your disdain and holier attitude. Especially minorities and poor need to concentrate on solving our problem regarding, education, Housing , Health and child hanger first. America’s capacity is limited to solve every other country’s problem.

  4. Who carried signs pleading with families to stop crossing the border illegally? Or carried signs encouraging the enforcement of the laws that are in place?

  5. To those Americans who worry about our taxes paying for illegal families who desperately want freedom, have you ever investigated where your taxes really go? How many of us have 2-3 televisions, more than one car, updated cell phones and so much more? July 4th, the wonderful holiday celebrating our own freedom, is nearing. Have we lost heart as we allow children of all ages being ripped out of the arms of their parents and, yes, some actually caged like animals. “Shame, shame, shame” and don’t think that our Lord will forget our cold hearts on our judgment day.

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