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Protesters demand end to family separation at Homeland Security office in Warwick



Over fifty people showed up outside the United States Customs and Border Protection offices on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick Friday morning to demand an end to the policy of separating immigrant parents and children at the border. The Trump policy of “zero tolerance” for crossing the border without mandated documentation has led to a new awareness of the cruelty happening every day at our southern border. The event was organized in concert with a “National Day of Action for Children.”

“Forced separation destroys the relationship that fosters resilience – and is deliberate trauma that can have long-term consequences for healthy development,” wrote organizers of Friday morning’s protest. “The practice of removing children from their caregivers, without policy for maintenance of their relationship or reunification is maltreatment. This destroys families and is the collapse of a core tenet of our nation: that the most vulnerable will be kept safe. It is intentional harm to children and must be stopped.”

In the video below Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser of Temple Sinai in Cranston and Brooke Conley entered the building a little after 7am to inform those in the office about the protest and the demands, but the office was not open as stated on the website.

“The United States runs the largest immigrant detention network in the world,” said Gabriella Domenzain who was at the rally representing herself. “And today we’re making it bigger by filling it with children we are taking from the arms of their parents.”

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“I’m here to speak against family separation,” said Luis Gordillo, whose wife, Lilian Calderon, was taken and detain for one month by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “The trauma our children experienced is beyond inhumane. Natalie started having nightmares and Noah developed separation anxiety.”

“I think, as a human being, it is my responsibility to advocate for the rights and dignity of the migrant children being separated from their parents by the Department of Homeland Security officials at the southern border,” said Catarina Lorenzo, from AMOR (Alliance to Mobilize Our Resistance). “Separation of families is a violation of their rights and traumatizes families.”

“We are horrified and outraged by the policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that compels the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to separate parents from their children when they cross our southern border,” said Rabbi Goldwassser. “Ripping families apart is cruel and inhumane. It is a practice associated with authoritarian regimes, not democracies!

“We Jews remember the times in our own history when parents were ordered to stand in one lane as they watched their children taken away on another line…”

“I would never think that the United States of America would end up at this level,” said Aniece Germain, a United States citizen and Haitian immigrant. “No. I would never. When I left my country, this belief that I used to have – and I still have – because you [the crowd] give me faith. I still believe in this America. I used to believe in and will believe in again. This is not the America we believe in.”

“,As a teacher I’ve met students and families who are living in constant fear of being deported,” said Tara Apperson. “These children do not feel safe. I’ve had students who have had a parent deported. They’re innocent in all of this, and yet, they suffer…”

“,We’re not going to address this important, urgent issue in one action,” said Sarah Markey, one of the organizers. “We’re going to have to come together again and again and again and unite with other states…”

Rabbi Goldwasser and Brooke Conley entered the building a second time a little after 8am to inform those in the office about the protest and the demands. This time the door was unlocked, but officials at the United States Customs and Border Protection office simply ignored them until they went away.

This appeared in one of the windows on the top floor of the building for a few minutes before being taken down:

Here are more photos from the event:

Aaron Regunberg

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.