Eight Democratic members of Congress and several dozen immigrant rights activists demonstrated Wednesday outside the offices of U.S. Customs and Border Protection to protest the Trump administration’s separation of children and parents who cross the border illegally.
The Department of Homeland Security has recently ramped up criminal prosecutionsof people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, including those seeking asylum. As a result, more families have been separated at the border, with parents sent to jail and children brought to federal government shelters.
“I cannot think of an act that is more cruel and more inhumane than to rip a child from the arms of their mother,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said at a rally that drew about 100 people. He called the act of seeking asylum “one of the greatest traditions in our country.”
About 20 demonstrators, including Gutierrez and Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.), sat on the steps outside the office building that houses the federal agency, wearing white armbands and issuing chants like “End the deportations, stop the separations.”
Organizers said there were about 60 demonstrations Wednesday in communities throughout the United States focused on the same issue.
At the D.C. rally, Jayapal described her visit to a federal detention center in SeaTac, Wash., which housed over 200 undocumented migrants who had been detained at the border. “These are facilities that they call the icebox because of the frigidity, facilities that they call the dog pound because they are put into cages,” she said.
DHS has disputed claims that it holds migrants in “cages.” The Post’s Fact Checker blog has described these facilities as “chain-link fence enclosures” or “barriers,” as per a Trump official’s characterization.
Jayapal said the House Judiciary Committee, on which she serves, has been blocked from holding hearings on issues of immigrant detention.
Amid chants of “Bring our babies back” and “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here,” she and other members of Congress led the crowd from Freedom Plaza, on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, toward Customs and Border Protection.
The group later demonstrated near the White House. While there, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) became faint from the 88-degree heat. He later tweeted that he was okay.
The event was organized by the Center for Popular Democracy Action.