Nearly 75 protesters gathered Saturday morning on the steps of the Grayson County Courthouse in opposition of the separation of immigrant and asylum-seeking children from their parents along the Mexican border.
The rally, entitled Families Belong Together Grayson County, was one of more than 700 scheduled to take place across the country Saturday, including rallies in Washington, D.C. and Austin. The rallies were in opposition to the new “zero-tolerance” policy for people who cross the border illegally that was recently announced by the U.S. Justice Department.
“We are here today to tell (President) Donald Trump that we demand his action now to immediately stop all present and future separation of, and to immediately reunite all past and present asylum-seeking refugee and immigrant infants and children with their parents and to stop this in the future,” protest organizer Catherine Giles said Saturday.
Following public outcry in response to the policy, Trump issued an executive order in late June ending the practice of separating migrant children from their parents who were detained while attempting to enter the U.S. illegally. This new policy will instead have families detained together.
“So we’re going to have strong — very strong borders, but we’re going to keep the families together. I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated,” Trump said during the signing of the order.
Despite the executive order, some children remain separated from their families. Earlier this week, a federal judge in California ruled the Trump administration must reunite those that were already separated from their families. Under the ruling, the families must be reunited within 30 days.
“The unfortunate reality is that under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property,” U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw wrote. “Certainly, that cannot satisfy the requirements of due process.”
Among the other goals of Saturday’s protests were to prevent children from having to represent themselves in legal proceedings related to the detainment, among other objects, Giles said.
Giles added that Saturday’s protests should be important to all people because nearly everyone can trace their origins to immigrants, she said.
“Unless you are 100 percent Native American, we are all products of those directly seeking asylum or immigrating to this country,” she said, describing herself as the descendant of religious and political refugees.
Saturday’s protest drew about half a dozen counter protesters who stood carrying American flags and signs. Giles said she was happy to see others taking the opportunity to express their thoughts on the matter.
“I am excited when any member of the public takes part in politics as well as our local government,” she said.
Trump seemed to address the protests happening across the country and a call by some activists to eliminate Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency under Homeland Security often referred to by its acronym ICE.
“When people come into our Country illegally, we must IMMEDIATELY escort them back out without going through years of legal maneuvering,” the president said in a tweet Saturday afternoon. “Our laws are the dumbest anywhere in the world. Republicans want Strong Borders and no Crime. Dems want Open Borders and are weak on Crime!”
Among those protesting the separation of immigrant children from their families was former Grayson County Democratic Party Chairman Lander Bethel, who previously helped start a refugee assistance council in South Texas. Bethel said the U.S. government has a responsibility to hear out those who come to the country seeking asylum.
“I think it is profoundly important that we understand that many people seek safe refuge in the U.S. from situations that are simply horrifying,” Bethel said. “It is only right to listen carefully to them (asylum-seekers) and discuss if they have a legitimate case and offer sanctuary.”
Bethel said he feels an obligation to listen to the pleas of those fleeing dangerous conditions in their homelands and offer safety and refuge.
“It is not that we are for open borders,” Bethel said. “It is important that we understand the people who are here seeking asylum.”