On June 21, a large crowd gathered for an emergency protest outside the White House, objecting to the separation and incarceration of immigrant families. I decided, along with several other members of LCV’s staff, to join the crowd in front of the White House, where we alternated between chanting in support of immigrants and listening to speakers call for action against Trump’s nativist policies.
As we walked up to the crowd, Los Gallos Negros, a mariachi band, kicked off the protest by playing music in celebration of the diversity of our country. As we stood outside in the heat, the crowd’s energy built, and chants such as “Say it loud, Say it Clear, Immigrants are Welcome Here” and “Stand Up, Fight Back” rose in waves between each speaker.
Among the speakers were leaders from a variety of organizations, all of whom spoke out in support of the children who are being tragically separated from their families at the border. Winnie Stachelberg, the executive vice president of External Affairs at the Center for American Progress, spoke passionately, emphasizing that “we have to reject this false choice between family separation and family incarceration.” Andrea Senteno of the Mexican and American Legal Defense and Education Fund called on the crowd and everyone across the country to “hold our leaders accountable and call out bigotry, nativism, and racism when we see it.” She also called for the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Session.
All of the speakers were passionate, several of them beginning their speeches by asserting their pride in being both immigrants themselves, or the children of immigrants. Giovanni Rocco with Generation Progress was almost brought to tears as he described the difficulties he faced when he first arrived in America and how much he cried on his first day of school. He emphasized the fact that at the end of the day, he always had his parents to return to.
As I looked around, the signs people were holding jumped out at me. People held large photos of children crying and in cages. Other people held up more slogans: “They are not criminals!” “Seeking asylum is not a crime” “Immigrants Make America Great” “No one is illegal on Stolen Land.” The intent of the protest was clear: we support immigrants, and we oppose the administration’s attempts to rip families apart.
Throughout the protest there were many calls for action, but the prevailing message was that, come November, it is essential that we keep in mind how our elected officials choose to deal with this injustice. Congressmen Hoyer, leaving an event to attend the rally, helped to amplify the call to vote. He stated that “we had a bad day in the House of Representatives today. We had 23 people who promised the Dreamers they were going to support them. And they turned their back. They deserted them. They did not protect them. And we ought to remember in November.” In response, the crowd chanted “Vote! Vote! Vote!”
Throughout this year, LCV has shown its support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and, this week, we voiced our opposition to the appalling practice of family separation at the U.S.- Mexico border. We stand in solidarity with our partner organizations who have led this fight because we believe that “the fight for our democracy, the environment, and racial justice are inextricably linked.” That’s why LCV has joined the call for protections for Dreamers and immigrant families, and why I decided to join in this important protest.