Protests in 30 cities slam Trump cruelty at the border
Protesters hold up signs at ICE headquarters in Chicago. | Earchiel Johnson/PW

CHICAGO – Protesters in at least 30 cities and towns turned out June 1 to decry President Trump’s policy of literally tearing babies and children from their parents at the U.S. border.

The demonstrations were called by a coalition of organizations including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, We Belong Together and the American Civil Liberties Union. The actions highlighted the inhumanity of taking children away from parents when they cross the border, a clear departure from the long-standing practice of allowing families to stay together while their cases were in the process of resolution.

Protesters outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters here carried signs demanding that families be kept together and that Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescind the inhumane policy.

“I’m here to express horror at how morally terrible it is to separate children from parents. This violates basic humanity,” said Rachel Cohen, a professor at the University of Chicago who was with the group at the ICE headquarters in Chicago. Cohen said she hoped the message of the protesters would “be heard by members of Congress. If we get some moderate Republicans perhaps they can force a vote on this,” she said.

Sessions has bragged about the cruel policy on national TV, a policy which has taken even parents who arrive as legal asylum seekers off to jail while their children are grabbed by the Department of Health and Human Services. On top of traumatizing the children, the department has lost track of thousands of them.

Sr. Bernadine Karge | Earchiel Johnson/PW

“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said in announcing the policy recently. “If you don’t like that then don’t smuggle children across the border.”

“This is abusive of children,” declared Allan Lindrup, a retired worker for the Social Security Administration who lives on the city’s South Side. “This goes against everything our government stands for and against everything that all the religions stand for.” Lindrup said he hoped the pressure of the 2018 midterm elections would move those in Congress who have yet to speak out against the forced separations. “As the outrage grows we have to let them know that if they don’t speak out they can lose their positions.”

The ACLU cofirmed in a recent report that 1,500 children have been lost altogether after having been handed over to HHS.

“Trump’s immigration department has torn babies from their mothers,” charged Ai-jen Poo, president of the Domestic Workers Alliance. Her labor organization is overwhelmingly made up of immigrant women. Speaking on national television last night she noted that children, after having been taken by HHS, can suffer all kinds of idignities including sexual abuse.

“What they are doing to immigrant families in our country is a horrible crisis. You associate this type of thing with major conflicts and wars and with despotic regimes,” said Sr. Bernadine Karge, a Dominican nun who had joined the protest here. Karge, who doubles as an immigrant rights lawyer, has worked with detainees at an immigration detention facility in Dilly, Texas.

Karge said the facility houses 2,400 detainees and that Core Civic, the private owner, charges taxpayers $250 per day per slot regardless of whether each of the beds is filled.  “It’s a cruel policy that is benefiting a private corporation at the expense of the American public,” she said.

Karge added that the policy is especially unjust when you consider that most immigrants come here because they have been forced to do so. She charged that “trade deals destroyed the economies of their countries in some cases and in others U.S. corporations teamed up with the worse elements to make life unbearable for the people in their home countries.”

Allan Lindrup | Earchiel Johnson/PW

Opposition to the new Trump policy has grown so strong that Trump has tried to shift blame to the Democrats, tweeting that people should “put pressure on the Democrats to end the horrible law that separates children from their parents once they cross the border into the U.S.” The policy of course was begun by Trump himself, not the Democrats, and there is no such law as the one the president was referring to.

Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren countered Trump on national television saying, “This is an administration policy that is separating these families, a Trump administration policy and if Donald Trump wants to change it and let families stay together, he can change it.

“The fact that the president can implement such a policy without Congressional approval underlines the need for comprehensive immigration law reform,” she said.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.