Two Bloomington activists traveled to Texas on Sunday for a Father’s Day protest of the Trump administration’s decision to separate children from their families as a way to curb illegal immigration.
Sonny Garcia and Tom Cullen from Illinois People’s Action were among a crowd of about 200 protesting outside the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center in McAllen, Texas. The federal facility is the first stop for those detained by agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. Around 200 unaccompanied minors and 528 families were reportedly being held there Sunday.
Garcia said the facility looked like a warehouse. If you were driving past it, you wouldn’t know what it was, he said. Members of Congress and the media toured it, but Garcia did not.
“It’s not a daycare center. It’s a prison,” Garcia said. “Children are being traumatized.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the plan in April, and expounded on it in May, saying his Department of Justice would partner with Homeland Security to prosecute anyone illegally crossing the southwest border and separate children from parents.
"If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It's that simple," said Sessions. "If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law. If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border."
Under the new policy, DHS says about 2,000 minors were separated from their "alleged adult guardians" between mid-April and the end of May.
Garcia calls the new policy “pure evil.”
“Especially on Father’s Day, just imagine how you would feel if your child was ripped away from you,” he said. “I can’t imagine the horror and the trauma these children are going through."
Illinois People’s Action is part of the coalition that’s been pushing local McLean County governments to pass Welcoming Community ordinances. Such ordinances try to walk a thin line between putting distance between local police and federal immigration authorities while not breaking the law. Normal passed a Welcoming Community ordinance. It remains pending in Bloomington.
Garcia said there’s a connection between what’s happening on the border and what’s happening in Bloomington-Normal.
“Immigration enforcement is not our friend. They do not have the best interest of the community at heart. That’s why we’re trying to limit our local municipalities collaboration with them,” Garcia said.
NPR’s Miles Parks contributed to this report.
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