COLORADO SPRINGS — About 100 people gathered in a downpour Friday afternoon outside Colorado Springs City Hall for a Keep Families Together rally to protest the separation of thousands of children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, a policy many in the audience described as “cruel” and “barbaric.”
“We can survive the rain, but we can’t survive ICE,” the Rev. Roger Butts, an associate minister with Unity Spiritual Center in the Rockies, said. “We’re here to say that it’s still possible, even if we’re tired and prone to cynicism and despair, that we will not stop. We can still, in these United States, form a more perfect Union.”
For City Council President Richard Skorman, the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants is “not the America I want and not the America I love.”
“I’m ashamed of my country. We won’t let people in to our country who are seeking asylum from a husband who beats them … or from drug cartels,” he said before leading the crowd in a chant of “Return the kids to their parents now.”
Keep Families Together rallies have been held across the country this week after more than 2,300 children were separated from their parents at the border, including a rally Friday in Boulder.
An executive order signed by President Donald Trump Wednesday ended the separation of families at the border by detaining parents and children together for an indefinite period, though it does not address the plight of the children who have already been separated from their parents under the president’s “zero tolerance” policy, the New York Times reported.
About 500 of the more than 2,300 children have been reunited with their families since May, a senior Trump administration official said Thursday.
Even though some families are reunited, Colorado Springs resident Jessica Lawyers believes their detainment is “inhumane.”
“We should be helping people to get asylum instead of putting them in a cage,” Lawyer said. “Yes, they’re not being separated anymore, but they’re being jailed. These immigrants can contribute to the economy, have jobs, pay taxes, just like every person in this crowd.”
The treatment of immigrants highlighted in the media this week isn’t new, said the Rev. Clare Twomey of Vista Grande Community Church.
“This issue has been festering for years,” she said. “We tend to think of adults as more resilient and not in as much need as children, but we must ask ourselves where we have been before this point.”
Immigrant advocate Nayda Benitez, is a so-called Dreamer, whose parents brought her into the U.S. illegally from Mexico when she was six years old and moved to Colorado Springs, where her father had obtained a work visa, she told the crowd at the rally. He would return periodically to Mexico to visit family, usually with no problem.
But when she was nine, he was detained at the border, even though his visa was valid.
“We struggled immensely with finances,” she said. “But it was more than that. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate in school, and whenever I asked him why he couldn’t come back, he had no answer.”
Though her father has since been able to return, Benitez said she still feels the trauma of the separation.
“When I see news about atrocities and about how the government has no plans to reunite the families who were separated since enactment of zero tolerance, I am filled with rage and horror because I know of the rage and horror already inflicted on these families,” she said.
Benitez called for the crowd to act now. Others echoed her call.
“From biblical verse to the Statue of Liberty, we are all called to welcome the stranger …” said Joy Garscadden of the Citizens Project.