June 15 (UPI) — Rallies were held across the nation Thursday to protest the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Protesters gathered in more than a dozen states — including California, Texas, Michigan and New York — to bring attention to what organizers say is the administration’s “cruel and inhumane treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers.”
Anna Tarkov, communications director for organizer Families Belong Together, said about 60 cities and towns staged rallies.
She said many supporters contacted the group asking to participate in the rallies.
“The outrage and the desperation is through the roof,” Tarkov said.
The demonstrations were promoted by the progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org.
Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, promising “100 percent” of immigrants who enter the United States unlawfully at will be prosecuted.
“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,” he said.
Since the policy was announced, about 500 children have been separated from their parents, according to Miguel A. Nogueras, an assistant federal public defender for the Southern District of Texas in McAllen.
During a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind., Thursday, Sessions said, “That is what the law calls for — and that is what we are going to do. … Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.”
Jess Morales Rocketto, political director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, said the “outrage and opposition will only keep growing if the administration continues this cruelty of separating families.”
Earlier this month, activists called for international intervention in the U.S. push to separate migrant children from their parents, a practice the Human Rights Watch called “cruel.”
A coalition of four rights groups and legal organizations submitted a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights — a body of the Organization of American States — asking it to “immediately stop a human rights and humanitarian crisis perpetrated by the U.S. government in the Texas-Mexico border.”
Families Belong Together coordinator Shannon Heesacker McClain said politics should not keep families apart.
“If you think that family values are important, at the top of that list is just the basic right of the family to be together,” McClain said. “I really think that everybody should be able to get behind this message that these families belong together and they shouldn’t be separated in this way.”