Labor Leaders and Activists Turn Out for Immigrants

July 5, 2018

by Stephon Johnson, Amsterdam News

Whether it was Lower Manhattan or in Los Angeles, labor leaders and activists took to the streets to protest the White House’s immigration policies.

“Families Belong Together” rallies popped up all over the country the last day of June, with rally goers not deterred by the current heat wave. Cities such as Honolulu, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Newark, Phoenix, Boston and Philadelphia all held rallies to push back against President Donald Trump’s agenda of separating families at the border.

Estela Vasquez, executive vice president of 1199SEIU, said that the policy is an extension of the president’s prejudiced agenda.

“The 450,000 health care workers of 1199SEIU are sickened by this administration’s inhumane and racist mistreatment of the immigrants who form the rich fabric of our nation,” said Vasquez in a statement. “As an immigrant myself, like many in our union, my heart hurts when I think about the babies ripped from their parents’ arms at our border, the families separated by oceans because of the Islamophobic Muslim ban. Are we returning to the days of slavery and Japanese internment camps?”

Protesters across the nation called for the Trump administration to reunite immigrant families that were separated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Moving kids from kennels to jails, with their parents, is not a real solution to this problem,” added Alison Hirsh, 32BJ SEIU vice president and political director, in a statement. “I have two toddlers. But because of the color of my skin and the happenstance is my birth, I don’t fear that they will be taken from me, or me from them. Too many members of our community don’t have that privilege.”

Last week, President Trump issued an executive order ending his own policy of separating families at the southern border (after repeating to the press that he didn’t have any control over the “Democratic” policy). However, the plan didn’t include a provision to reunite families. Using the threat of the violent gang MS-13, Trump took to his virtual soapbox on Twitter to praise ICE and criticize Democrats.

“The Democrats are making a strong push to abolish ICE, one of the smartest, toughest and most spirited law enforcement groups of men and women that I have ever seen,” stated Trump on Twitter. “I have watched ICE liberate towns from the grasp of MS-13 & clean out the toughest of situations. They are great!”

In Washington, D.C., protesters marched to White House and the Trump International Hotel yelling “Shame!” even though Trump wasn’t there. He spent the weekend at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said the president from New York doesn’t reflect the values of the city he’s from.

“The Trump regime is doing everything it can to divide immigrant families and drive them away,” said Lieberman in a statement. “The current crisis will not end until every child that has been separated is reunited with their parents, every family is treated with dignity and due process and our immigration policies reflect our values.”

But not all of the rallies went without a hitch. In Huntsville, Ala., 34-year-old Shane Ryan Sealy was arrested after allegedly brandishing a gun at a group of protesters. Police charged the Trump supporter with menacing and reckless endangerment.

Nevertheless, activists stuck to their agenda and let Trump, ICE and the DHS know that every step is being watched.

“By forcibly ripping families apart at the border, the Trump administration showed the world how morally bankrupt it truly is,” stated Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “What is happening defies all moral decency, and we will not stand idly by.”