Hundreds gathered and marched Saturday in Joliet to protest the separation of immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The demonstration happened the same day as several others across the country under the banner of “Families Belong Together.” In Joliet, demonstrators met in the Chicago Street Plaza, across from the Rialto Square Theatre, where several speakers took the stage to speak out.
The speakers, many of whom were local elected officials, shared stories reported about children being held in detention facilities around the country. Alicia Morales, a trustee on the Joliet Junior College board, shared one account from a public defender in McAllen, Texas, which described the methods authorities used to separate the families. The parents were told their children would only be taken for a short time for a bath, and it wasn’t until hours later that they realized what happened.
“This is not the America that I want for any of our children,” Morales said.
Several groups, including the Will County Progressives, Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project and many others helped organize the event.
The organizers demanded the federal government reunite families already separated, end the detention of families crossing the border and end the “zero tolerance” policy the Trump administration has implemented. Speakers such as state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Crest Hill, also called for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
“We’re here today to call on the president of the United States and every member of the United States Congress to begin working together immediately to adopt an immigration policy that promotes opportunity, safety, fairness and fulfills our pledge that our land is a land of justice and liberty for all,” McGuire said.
Several demonstrators carried signs with messages such as “Kids are not illegal,” and “True Americans don’t put children in cages.” Community activist Richard Rodriguez explained the issue touches a nerve with many, which is why hundreds came out to demonstrate, despite the heat.
“I think it’s a shock to people that this is happening in America,” Rodriguez said. “They’re hearing the cries of the children. They’re seeing the kids in cages, and I think people are becoming afraid of what’s happening.”