NEW YORK — Demonstrators opposed to the Trump administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border gathered for a rally at New York’s Union Square on Tuesday amid continued controversy over the divisive tactic.
Hundreds of people attended the protest, which was sponsored by the Youth Caucus of America and Refuse Fascism. Many in the crowd said they were disgusted by recent reports describing asylum-seeking families being torn apart as a component of the White House’s hardline immigration policies.
Federico Garcia, an organizer with Refuse Fascism, said President Donald Trump’s past descriptions of immigrants — including calling them “animals” — underscores the fact his administration views those seeking asylum in the U.S. as less than human.
“These are human beings,” Garcia said. “These are crimes against humanity, and it’s everyone’s responsibility. Whether you’re living in a border town or whether you’re living in a big city like New York, everyone needs to stand up and draw the line and stop accommodating fascism.”
In recent days, disturbing images and audio — including photos of chain-link structures at holding locations and a recording of other children sobbing and crying out for their parents at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility — have galvanized both sides of the political aisle to push back on the policy.
Amy Chea, 27, said she went to the protest because the cause felt personal. Her parents and older brother had come to the United States as refugees seeking asylum from the Cambodian genocide.
“They were asylum-seekers, they had to come here to survive,” Chea said. “I just think, what if they had taken my brother? What if they had imprisoned my parents just for trying to give their kids a better life?”
Another protestor, Matthew Cohen, said he came out Tuesday because he believes the Trump administration “just keeps moving the line of decency further and further.”
“Now we’re talking about children, the most vulnerable people in the population,” Cohen said. “If we don’t stand up and fight this now, then I don’t know who we are anymore ... we might as well just lie down and die.”
Prominent conservatives, including former first lady Laura Bush and influential evangelist Franklin Graham, have spoken out against the immigration policy in recent days. Meanwhile, recent polls show the family separation policy has the potential to damage vulnerable congressional Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections.
According to Garcia, who said the midterms are too far off for individuals outraged about the situation at the border, said direct action on the issue cannot be delayed.
“It’s not about raising awareness,” Garcia said. “We’re done with that. We’re not calling for protests as usual. We’re calling on people ... to [call] for the end of the Trump-Pence administration and [to not stop] until that demand is met. We can’t wait — not for the blue wave that’s going to come crashing into the rocks, not until November. Our answer can’t be, ‘Let’s wait.’”