Two rallies protest federal “zero-tolerance” policy

Published in the July 25 – August 7, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Photo by Marty Cheek
A woman protests during the June 30 rally at the Community Center.

Men, women and children from throughout South Valley gathered for demonstration rallies recently at the Morgan Hill Community Center’s plaza in support of reuniting families separated at America’s southern border in recent months.

The rallies were part of a national movement of protests of children being separated from their parents who were detained due to the federal government’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

More than 200 marchers attended the Families Belong Together Rally June 30. Many carried hand-made banners with messages including “Return our Stolen Children” and “Families Don’t Belong in Cages.” The event was organized by members of the local activist group Showing Up For Racial Justice  as well the Gilroy-based CARAS.

An estimated 70 people attended the July 13 rally.

From the amphitheater stage at the June rally, Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate read a statement that should be on the next council agenda detailing the city’s position on the zero-tolerance policy:

Photo courtesy Kathryn Walker
A woman protests at the ICE office during a July 13 rally.

“On behalf of the city of Morgan Hill City Council, I write to express our strong opposition to President Trump’s family separation policy as it is immoral, inhuman, unjust, and un-American. Governing by fear and division under the zero-tolerance policy should be ended immediately and all possible action undertaken to reunite separated families.

“The Morgan Hill community prides itself on being inclusive and will do everything in its power to keep families together. Systematic practice of separating parents and children violates the values on which our great nation was founded and long-standing precedent protecting rights to family integrity. It also burdens the federal criminal justice and immigration system and increases government costs. While we understand that the arrival of families at our southern borders creates challenges for the government, we encourage the administration to address these challenges by means that our human, fair, effective, and uphold the law and our values as a country.”

Edwin Lopez, a Gilroy teen, spoke to the crowd about his concerns for the government’s actions that have taken children away from their parents.

“Why should ICE separate any family? Why should any family be separated? Why?” he asked. “I’m here for the same reason all of you are: to stop ICE from separating more families. You want to know why? Because many of them are living in oppression and fear. I’m a child of immigrant parents, parents who came here for more opportunity and a better life.”

Another speaker was Sister Patty representing People Acting in Community Together (PACT):

“I’m here this morning to make really clear that PACT, as a group of interfaith leaders, stands firmly with the undocumented community and is totally against the separation of families,” she said.

The Sisters of the Presentation, which she is a member, have sent missionaries for many years to Mexico, Nicaragua, and Guatemala and they returned telling stories of “grinding poverty, unending violence and continual fear suffered by the people of those countries.” That’s the reason they take the risk of coming to the United States, she said.

Several elected officials attended the rally including San Benito County Supervisor Robert Rivas and Morgan Hill City Councilmember Rene Spring who both spoke to the crowd. Morgan Hill City Councilmember Larry Carr also attended and said that he was proud to see that people from the entire South Valley region were standing up with others across America in a national protest against the separation of families by the government.

“We’re less insular and know that coming together would make a difference for our own community by speaking out in a louder voice,” he said. “The things that are going on right now on the border with the Trump administration and what it is doing with immigrant families is just atrocious and it just hurts these people’s souls. That’s why we’re here to make a statement and be out and say something about it.”

After the June 30 rally, the attendees marched about one mile in the heat from the community center’s plaza to the Morgan Hill U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Vineyard Court for more speeches. As they made their way down Monterey Road, they chanted “Say it loud! Say it clear! Immigrants are welcome here!” and “Power to the people! No one is illegal!”