Columbus Turns Out for Families Separated at the Border
It’s a beautiful day for a protest. That’s good news for those taking part in the nationwide action planned for Saturday, June 30, dubbed the Families Belong Together march. The local version took place at the Statehouse on Saturday morning, with a crowd of hundreds pouring into Capitol Square in the 90 degree heat. They toted signs signs as diverse as the crowd, but each had a common element condemning the separation and detainment of families at U.S.’s southern border. Although President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 20 ending family separation (and instead detaining them together), thousands of minors remain isolated from their guardians; and no one seems to have an answer as to how they could be reunited.
During the rally, several speakers took the podium, most of whom had immigrated to the United States. Stephanie Espinal read a letter on behalf of her mother Edith Espinal, who has been in sanctuary since October 2017.
“‘My name is Edith Espinal. As many of you know, I am living in sanctuary in the Columbus Mennonite Church in Clintonville,'” Stephanie read. “‘As of today, June 30, I have been 242 days [sic]. For my family, this separation has been difficult, because I am not able to be at home and give my children a good night kiss.'”
In her letter, Edith related the recent policy of family separation to a personal experience from 2014, under the Obama administration. Her husband had arrived at the border, seeking asylum, and Stephanie was with him. Although she was born in the United States and is a citizen, ICE detained Stephanie for several days, Espinal wrote in her letter.
“‘Like the parents of these young children, I had to look for my daughter on my own,'” the letter continued. “because the director of ICE told me on a phone call that she did not know where my daughter was.’
“That is a lie,” Stephanie interjected. “She took me to a Children’s Services,” and then again from the letter, “It is very frustrating to know this government gives us unjustice [sic] immigration laws, even though the only thing we want is to give our children a better life.”
The rally continued with calls to action, wherein attendees signed petitions, got on mailing lists, registered to vote or checked their registration, and connected with local activist organizations to learn more.
A march took protesters around the square, to what looked like a potential police conflict forming at the intersection of Broad and High Streets, where a group was blocking traffic. After about a dozen warnings from police and some mild tension punctuated with thunderous chanting from the crowd, protesters gradually cleared the road and took the sidewalk.
More speakers finished up the rally on West Broad Street.
Partnering organizations include:
- Central Ohio Worker Center
- Council on American-Islamic Relations, Columbus Chapter
- Columbus Democratic Socialists of America
- Faith in Public Life
- Hand In Hand
- Indivisible District 3
- Indivisible District 12
- Latino Voters Action Fund
- Ohio Hispanic Coalition
- Ohio Student Association
- Yes We Can Columbus
- Young Democratic Socialists of America