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Rhode Islanders call for an end to family separations at the border



At its height around 400 people crowded the south steps of the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday afternoon to oppose the Trump Administration policy of separating families at the border. Organized by the March for Racial Justice Rhode Island and Rhode Island Womxn’s Action Initiative, attendees were invited to “send the message that families belong together,” adding “Trump, our politicians, American businesses and defense contractors and the one percent are profiting off of the traumatic separation and imprisonment of these infants, toddlers, children and adolescents.”

Monica Huertas

Attendees were asked to bring “a toy as a symbolic gesture to represent more than 2,000 children that have been ripped from their parents arms and thrown into internment/concentration camps.” The toys were arranged on the State House steps and left behind by the protesters.

As the protest was underway, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that he maintained would solve the problem of separating families, but of course the executive order does nothing of the sort. The New York Times reports that there will be an “implementation phase,” meaning that a family arriving today will most likely still face separation at the border. The executive order allows families to be held together indefinitely. Also, there is nothing in the order about reuniting families already fractured by the Trump policy, never mind what happens to children separated from parents who have already been deported.

The executive order also appears to be a massive giveaway to defense contractors, who are being instructed to build the facilities necessary to shelter undocumented immigrant families.

Below is the video from the rally, and some pictures.

“This is not okay,” said David Veliz of Progresso Latino. “It is not okay and it is not normal to separate children from their families.”

Veliz was briefly interrupted by a woman on her way to a 2nd Amendment Rally happening inside the State House. The woman made some unkind and possibly racist comments about immigrants and her support for Trump.

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“It was not lost on me that these are Brown children,” continued Veliz. “And in this country, we have a history of taking children away. People in this administration, I think, will never get it unless they stop seeing Brown and Black people as other.”

“What we want to remind you of,” said Monica Huertas, one of the emcees at the rally, “is that these borders are fake. Because we’ve been here, for 526 years. We have been here. We’re not going anywhere.”

Ria Moni, from the March for Racial Justice Rhode Island, said to “follow the money.”

“$34 million in subsidies to a company that profits off putting children, babies, in jail,” said Moni. Moni was referring to General Dynamics, which has a contract with the United States government around separating children, and is enjoying tax subsidies from the State of Rhode Island.

Juan, who is Monica Huertas’s husband, talked about his life as a child separated from his immigrant father when he was 12-years old.

Monika Huertas talks about the history of the United States taking children from their families.

“This is happening now. This is America. This is who we are,” said Janie Seguí Rodríguez. “We said never again after we put the Japanese into internment camps. We said never again, but this is our government.”

Casey spoke about the mental health care issues children separated from their parents at the border endure.


Monica Huertas:

“We know that every human being has value,” said State Representative Aaron Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence) and candidate for Lieutenant Governor. “And we are not going to let some dictator-loving, fascism admiring, white nationalist backed racist xenophobic conman of a President drag our country into being Germany, 1933.

“Now, we usually try to steer clear of those Nazi comparisons. The actions of that empire were truly evil and I think we usually don’t like to talk about politics in terms of evil… But let’s be clear: What’s happening on the border right now is evil.

“It is evil to put children into cages. It is evil to rip babies away from their parents…”

“Now the children can be with their parents, but they will still be in jail, indefinitely,” said Shanna Wells from the Rhode Island Womxn’s Action Initiative. “What about the 2500 [children] who are there now? They sent some of their parents home. How are those kids going to be reunited? There’s not a plan. There was never a plan to reunite families. There was a plan to destroy families…”

“This is really disgusting,” said Kenya Velasquez, the child of two migrant parents. “I can’t imagine myself being separated from my own family because we don’t happen to have citizenship… This is not the way. This is not how you reform immigration. This is not how you clean up America… This is ruining lives. This is ruining the image of America.”

“Carlos is going to speak in Spanish and if you can’t understand him, sorry,” said Huertas.

“I cry for the children. This hurts my heart. It makes me sad that we’re in 2018, and this is still happening…”

Ria Moni read the poem “Home” by British Somali poet Warsan Shire, which has become the gospel of immigrants, refugees and their advocates.

“We have to make sure that we are crystal clear with those private companies that have contracted themselves out to the government to execute this inhuman, inhumane, cruel and immoral policy that they can’t do that any more. They can’t be a part of it,” said Matt Brown, Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island. “That’s why I’ve called on Governor Raimondo to repeal the latest tax breaks that she has offered to General Dynamics that is down there participating in this inhuman, inhumane and immoral policy…

“More importantly, those companies need to understand, that whether they give a thousand dollars or whether, like they’ve done with Governor Raimondo, give $11,000 in campaign contributions – They still can’t participate in this immoral activity. She needs to give that $11,000 back in campaign contributions to General Dynamics today.”

The wrap-up:

Wonder Woman

David Veliz

Janie Seguí Rodríguez

Aaron Regunberg

Matt Brown

Mel Dupont

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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.