More than 2,300 children, mostly from Central America, have been detained and separated from their families since the Trump administration implemented its “zero tolerance” policy about two months ago in the United States. Immigrants, including asylum seekers, who cross the border into the U.S. illegally are arrested, and their children sent into holding facilities – and even foster care – in different parts of the country.
Caving to widespread outrage and pressure, also from his own party and wife, President Donald Trump has now signed an executive order “reversing” the policy. However, it came without a plan or provisions for families’ reunification.
“There are moms right now sitting in jail with no way to locate their children and no way to find out how to get them back or when they might ever see them again,” says Blossom Stefaniw, who is organizing a demonstration in Leipzig. “There are children, right now, including babies, toddlers, and children with disabilities, crying so hard that they vomit, or sitting dazed and shut down, because they have lost their parents and have no idea what is happening to them. The facilities in which they are held include private institutions who are making money off this situation.”
The demonstration will be one of a series of rallies taking place internationally and in the U.S. on the same day – Saturday, 30 June.
It will start at noon in front of the U.S. Consulate, and the group will march together to Augustusplatz “to protest the criminalization of migrant families.”
Some participants and organizers of the Leipzig march had already protested in the aftermath of Trump’s election as president in November 2016, also in support of similar demonstrations elsewhere. They have been concerned about the right-wing turn of regimes in the U.S. as well as abroad, and what that could mean for human rights, immigration and minorities.
Right now, Moveon.org is leading the charge in galvanizing demonstrators, under the motto and hashtag “Families Belong Together.” Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council has strongly condemned Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy through a public statement, issued shortly after the U.S. decided to withdraw from the council.
“The children who were already detained are still detained, and there is no adequate plan to return them to their families,” Stefaniw adds. “The [executive] order appears to be part of a strategy to pressure the courts into allowing whole families to be incarcerated indefinitely. [It] is also a distraction to make people believe the problem is resolved when it is not.”
The “zero tolerance” scenario has led to comparisons to World War II practices by the Nazis, and by the U.S. government itself when it imprisoned Japanese-Americans in camps (without, however, separating them from their children). It has also sparked a news and public opinion battle about immigration policies during the Barack Obama vs. Trump administrations.
The treatment of immigrants has been a point of contention in U.S. society and politics for decades, and fair and humane reform has so far been elusive. Trump’s insistence on having a wall built along the U.S.-Mexico border, one of his campaign’s pivotal points, has widened the gap in public sentiments and further crippled the prospect of productive dialogue.
With “zero tolerance” and what many consider a humanitarian crisis in the U.S., the situation may have reached a fever pitch.
“I have called on religious communities throughout Leipzig to show up and participate, on schools and friends and relatives, on students and the international community, and I hope that there will be a gigantic response which shows these kids and their parents that we see them, we care about them, and we are fighting for them,” explains the Leipzig protest organizer.
Families Belong Together – Familien gehören zusammen
Saturday, 30 June 2018, 12 PM – 2 PM
Meet in front of U.S. Consulate General Leipzig (Wilhelm-Seyfferth-Strasse 4)