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Protesters shouted their disapproval of President Trump’s immigration policy at a June 19 protest across from Great Barrington's Brown Bridge.

Protesters rally, decry Trump immigration policy

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By Wednesday, Jun 20, 2018 News 3

Great Barrington — During the 5–6 p.m. rush hour Tuesday (June 19), about  30 protestors gathered in front of the GB emblem on Main Street at the Brown Bridge to demonstrate against President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigration that resulted in the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents — one of hundreds of such demonstrations nationwide against the Trump immigration stance.

Holding up makeshift signs decrying Trump and demanding legal protection for immigrant families, the crowd stood on the sidewalk in the blistering afternoon heat, asking cars passing by the busy intersection to honk in support of immigration reform and a reversal of the new policy, which, belatedly in reaction to public outrage, Trump has since modified by executive order.

South County residents turned out Tuesday, June 19, across from the Brown Bridge in Great Barrington to protest the immigration policy of President Donald Trump. Photo: Terry Cowgill

This demonstration comes in the wake of hundreds of other protests that took place in all corners of the country, from Hudson, New York, to El Paso, Texas. On the U.S. side of the Mexico border,  hundreds of immigrant children are being stored in tent camps, abandoned stores and large cages as a result of Trump’s policy. Others have been shipped to remote holding facilities, one of which is near Hudson, New York. Meanwhile, these children’s parents have been detained indefinitely while they await prosecution for the crime of illegally crossing the border, a misdemeanor which carries a fine and no more than six months in prison.

The separation of the families originally began when, on April 6, the Department of Justice announced the original “zero tolerance” policy requiring officials to prosecute as many immigrants illegally entering the country on the southern border as possible. The policy marks a departure from the Obama administration’s immigration strategy, which resulted in mass deportations but, in contrast to what Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen falsely claimed yesterday, did not separate children from their parents in large numbers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has justified the “zero tolerance” policy by citing scripture while Nielsen had claimed the policy will deter more families from crossing the boarder illegally, a claim that has not been demonstrated in recent immigration data.

According to a Pew study cited in the Washington Post, “the number of immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala jumped by 25 percent between 2015 and 2017.” The study also reaffirmed what many opponents to the new policy have said during TV interviews: that the majority of those immigrating illegally to the U.S. are fleeing war zones, gang violence and human trafficking as well as starvation and abject poverty — for many families, the journey to the U.S. was treacherous, but deportation back home will serve as a death sentence.

The faces of some of the protesters at Great Barrington’s Brown Bridge Tuesday appeared anguished as they decried Trump’s policy of “locking them up in cages at the border.” Photo: Terry Cowgill

On June 6, the ACLU and the international law firm of Arnold and Porter, based in Washington, D.C., filed a federal lawsuit “on behalf of immigrants’ rights groups challenging the Trump administration’s plan to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census.” All living former U.S. first ladies, most notably Laura Bush, have spoken out against the policy as “cruel” and “immoral,” and an aggregate of polls conducted in the last month shows that 64 percent of registered voters oppose separating children from their families at the border.

One of the demonstrators on Tuesday, David Rosenberg, yelled at cars passing by to “honk, please give us a honk.” He pulled this reporter aside to voice his frustration with Trump, saying: “Children need their families. Locking them up in cages at the border will do serious … harm to them. The whole situation reminds me of the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Trump needs to reverse this policy right now.” It was hard to hear everything Rosenberg was saying, but his anger was palpable over the sound of car horns blaring.

Today, it looks as if Rosenberg and his fellow demonstrators may have gotten their wish. This afternoon, the New York Times reported that Trump signed an executive order that “ends the separation of families by indefinitely detaining parents and children together at the border.”

The order does not end the criminal prosecution of parents who came to the U.S. illegally but does says that the administration will work on building facilities that can house families as they await deportation. Nor does it provide a mechanism for immigrant children who have been imprisoned in various states to be reunited with their parents. Instead, parents and children may now be imprisoned together — unless that directive is overturned by the courts. For the moment, however, Trump has caved — to some extent — to public pressure, perhaps a show that demonstrations and public outcry can effect policy change. But the journey for families detained at the Mexican border is still a long and dangerous one and, for many, it will still end in deportation and a very uncertain future.

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3 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Howie Lisnoff says:

    Nicely done article, Victor Feldman. Many thanks to the Edge for covering the demonstration.

  2. Jim Balfanz says:

    Where were all of you when it was happening during the previous administrations? Yep. Sucking swamp water… The hypocrisy is so evident.

    1. Cynthia LaPier says:

      The Trump administration’s gross and illegal interpretation of immigration laws that have been in place since the Clinton and Bush administrations has awakened Democrats and Republicans alike to this issue and the current plight of these 2000+ babies and children.
      Some facts about the legislation from Washington Post:
      The White House has been referring to a 2008 anti-trafficking law as one of the root causes of the family separation practice. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act bars unaccompanied migrant children from nations other than Mexico and Canada who show up at the border from being promptly sent back to their home countries.
      Instead, the law requires those children be referred to Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, which screens children to see if they are victims of trafficking while making arrangements to put them in one of its shelters, in foster care or with a sponsor in the United States, such as a family member.
      But it’s not a Democratic law: It was passed unanimously by both chambers of Congress and signed into law in the final days of the George W. Bush administration.
      Miller and Nielsen have also pointed to the “Flores settlement” as another genesis of the separation. The 1997 court settlement dramatically limits the detention of migrant children and calls on them to be held in the “least restrictive setting appropriate to age and special needs.” Combined, administration officials say, those factors are exacerbating the family separation practice by barring families from being detained together. But again, they aren’t Democratic policies, and neither the Bush nor Obama administrations interpreted the 2008 anti-trafficking law or the Flores settlement as requiring family separation.

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