Residents of South Florida came together Saturday afternoon in front of the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children to protest the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, which had forced the separation of migrant children from their parents.
More than 30 different organizations based in South Florida, such as United We Dream and American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, created the March to Keep Families Together to protest the shelter.
Even after Trump signed an executive order earlier this week to end the separation of children from their parents, the fate of the children who had already been separated from their families remains uncertain.
More than 1,000 protestors showed up to give these children a voice, and stuffed animals; some even drove up from the Florida Keys, such as retired couple Patricia and Bill Marett.
Enduring the heavy downpour, the couple showed its support with custom-made signs. They said families should be kept together and borders should be open.
“I thought the other day when we were really starting to ramp up the separation of families, of Kristallnacht — the start of the purge in Poland — that’s what we are doing,” said Bill Marett. “We the United States of America are purging brown people from this country and that is so un-American that we couldn’t stay home.”
Patricia Marett has hope there will be good people out there who will figure out how to reunite the children with their parents.
As a symbolic gesture for the children housed in the shelter, several protestors brought stuffed animals and placed them on the Homestead Ranch sign.
Various parents participated in the protest with their children — as families held signs, placed stuffed animals on the sign and made their voice heard. Juan Andrés Morales, a Venezuelan immigrant who has been living in the U.S. for over 20 years, brought his toddler son to the march so he could remember he was part of the side of history that fought for the rights of immigrants.
“It’s difficult not to hear the latest assault on immigrants and immigrant children in particular and not feel compelled to do something about it,” said Morales.
Even though Morales was marching and singing “This Land is Your Land” as loud as he could, he felt the march was not enough.
“We should right now be stopping the Turnpike,” he said, “until all those children are reunited with their families.”
Diana Castro, a Colombian immigrant, and Rodrigo Tirapegui, a Chilean immigrant, stood huddled together under their umbrella near the Homestead Ranch sign because they also wanted the detained children to be with their parents.
“This is not a political issue,” said Castro. “This is a human’s right issue and we stand together to support these kids who have no voice and nobody standing with them but us.”
Tirapegui believed that even though the recently signed executive order by Trump will not immediately reunite the separated families, it will be the first stepping stone to getting them back together, while Castro said that the events happening now are too similar to what happened in Germany.
“If parents are fleeing their country and taking the chance to leave everything behind and they come here, all they have is each other, and when they separate and take away everything they have it is inhumane,” said Castro.
The rain poured for most of the march, as many many sought shelter in bus stops, the bottom of long trucks and in the tent that was set up as the main stage.
Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee and one the democratic candidates running for Florida Governor, took shelter in the white tent with several other people, who listened to various undocumented immigrants tell their stories on the improvised chair-stage.
“We are here today [in] a collective way to say we are not going to continue to stand for this,” he said. “We demand change and we demand a humane immigration policy.”
According to the Miami Herald, as many as 1,300 children are currently kept in the Homestead shelter and almost 100 of those are children have been separated from their families at the border.
It is currently unknown whether the detained children will be reunited with their families. However many of the protestors had hope that the children in the shelter would soon be able to hugs their parents.
“We are Americans goddammit,” said Bill Marett.