Carrying signs like “Stop Trump's Kiddie Jails,” “Vote for Justice” and “Moms and babies torn apart in our USA; Stop Trump,” about 600 protesters gathered in extreme heat Saturday in Davenport in objection to families being separated at the Mexico-U.S. border.
The Families Belong Together rally was organized locally by a group called Mothers United/Madres Unidas to put an end to U.S. policy of family separation and detention. It was held at Vander Veer Botanical Park in central Davenport.
One of the protesters was Charlie Cushman of Milan, who shared why he came.
“The disgust for our government,” he said. “I don't even have to talk about the families being torn apart. It's a mess. It is sickening.”
It was one of 710 such Families Belong Together rallies that took place Saturday across the nation. Organizers call it a national day of action to protest the policy of forcibly separating children from their parents, and the detention of families.
Leaders of the local group include Emilyne Slagle, Leslie Kilgannon and Jazmin Newton-Butt.
Slagle of Blue Grass, said it was she and Kilgannon who decided to do something.
“It came about because daily my friend Leslie and I as mothers were brokenhearted watching these babies be taken away from their mothers,” Slagle said. “As mothers, we hurt for the children and the mothers who in pursuit to save their children they risked something so great, only to find an America that isn't accepting.”
She said Iowans always have welcomed immigrants, but now, they do not like children being used as “pawns” in this issue that she said is very political.
She said they want to end family separations and reunite families.
”Children and families deserve due process, not indefinite imprisonment. Children do not belong in baby cages and internment-like camps. Family incarceration is not the solution to family separation,” Slagle said.
“We feel what is going on at the border isn't right,” said Kilgannon, of Davenport. “The Trump administration has manufactured this process. Families are fleeing violence and they are presenting themselves, seeking asylum at the border. And our government, instead, are separating children and charging them with misdemeanors. We want immigration reform.”
According to officials, more than 2,000 children are separated from their parents. Accounts from immigration advocates and migrants within detention say the process to reunify families has many problems. A judge has ordered the Trump administration to speed up family reunification and stop deporting parents without their kids.
Dr. Martin Logo of Moline, immigrated here from the African nation of Togo.
“The United States has a culture of welcoming immigrants and refugees,” he said. “I am scared for the future of this country that keeps kids in cages."
Newton-Butt, of Davenport, is president of Davenport LULAC, or League of United Latino American Citizens. She said the zero tolerance policy and separating families will never be forgotten.
:What has happened in the last few months will forever be stained in our history,” she said.
In her message to the crowd, she said “fear and hate mongering” persists in this country. “The government has ripped children from the arms of their own parents.”
Loretta Gamble of Davenport said she showed up simply for the children.
“As Americans, I think we need to stand again for justice,” she said. “Even though they may not be our children, they are our children and I am concerned about the long-term effects on these children. And I am not sure our government has figured out how to reunite these children with their parents.”
After the speeches, the crowd marched around the park chanting, “Kids, you are not alone,” both in English and Spanish.