‘Families Belong Together' Rally: Thousands protest family separations at border in DC
WASHINGTON - Mass rallies are being held across the country Saturday as protesters call for an end to President Donald Trump’s "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that has left children separated from their parents at the border.
The largest of the rallies is taking place in the District with thousands marching at Lafayette Square, directly across from the White House. The protest, organized under the umbrella group called Families Belong Together took place Saturday morning.
Families Belong Together say they have three main goals — to get the attention of lawmakers, to end family separations and detention and to make sure children are reunited with their parents.
It’s one of several dozen happening across the country. More than 600 marches could draw hundreds of thousands of people nationwide, from immigrant-friendly cities like Los Angeles and New York City to conservative Appalachia and Wyoming.
What’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, children being separated from their parents has fueled frustration.
"Families should not be separated. If I knew the solution, I wouldn't be here. I’d be in Congress," said protesters Tom Thompson.
But even Congress is still determining just what to do.
Though many participating in the marches are seasoned anti-Trump demonstrators, others are new to immigration activism, including parents who say they feel compelled to show up after heart-wrenching accounts of children forcibly taken from their families as they crossed the border illegally.
For people on both sides of the political aisle, Saturday morning’s demonstration was the aftermath of jarring images illustrating reality — children being separated from their families at the border and little indication on when they will be reunited.
"Children should not be in cages. We should not be separating them. We should have asylum. We’ve always had asylum in this country and to make a zero tolerance policy is unacceptable," said protester Christine Ingles.
"I love these guys here but I think that they’re naive. Really naive. I’m from the Middle East so I know the mentality. If you want to protect your borders, unfortunately, that’s the way," said another person at the rally.
Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, welcomed interest in the immigration system and said only Congress has the power to change the law.
"The only way we win on this fight is for people to get involved, to make their voices heard and to demonstrate activism that shows the American people firmly oppose this kind of policy," said MoveOn.org spokesman Karthik Ganapathy.
"We appreciate that these individuals have expressed an interest in and concern with the critical issue of securing our nation's borders and enforcing our immigration laws," Houlton said. "As we have indicated before, the department is disappointed and frustrated by our nation's disastrous immigration laws and supports action."
The president is not at the White House during the protest as he is spending the weekend in New Jersey.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.