Protesters gather at White House, Justice Department to oppose family separations at border

The Washington Post

A coalition that includes members of Latino organizations and immigrant rights groups rallied Friday outside the Justice Department to protest family separations at the border, and another rally was held at the Department of Homeland Security.

The demonstrations were among several on the border issue to be held across the Washington region.

Krupskaya Elliott of the Virginia Legal Aid Justice Center was among dozens of activists gathered in the rain at Justice to speak out against the Trump administration's immigration policies. Elliott, who came here from Nicaragua 13 years ago, said she could not imagine being separated from her two children.

"The trauma inflicted upon kids is immoral," she said.

Rally speaker Arturo Griffiths, who immigrated from Panama in the 1960s, said his ancestors helped build the Panama Canal.

"We did so much to get the economy of this country going," he said. "Now they don't want us."

In light rain, about 50 people, mostly mothers and their young children, chanted and drummed on buckets outside the DHS complex near Massachusetts and Nebraska avenues NW.

Drawing honks from passing cars, they intoned: "Fix what you broke," and "We stand together."

"We want the people who work inside there at every water cooler and cubicle saying, 'We need to do something,'" said Tricia Duncan, 47. She was one of six demonstrators in olive-green jackets adorned with phrases written in duct tape expressing their concern, in contrast to the words on the jacket worn by first lady Melania Trump during her visit to a Texas detention center on Thursday.

"People sometimes think that people living in this Northwest neighborhood are just sitting at their kitchen tables," said Duncan, who is president of the parent-teacher organization at Key Elementary School in the Palisades. "But we are families. We understand the bond that a mother and a child has."

At another rally outside the White House, about 20 advocates used a megaphone to play audio obtained by ProPublica from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, in which children can be heard wailing as they ask for their family members.

Sarah Mathews, a creative writing student at the University of Iowa, held the megaphone as it blared the screams of children into Lafayette Square. She said she couldn't stay silent when she learned of the child separation policy and called Trump's recent order rescinding it a "Band-Aid on a severed limb."

"I refuse to be complicit," she said. "All of this is funded by our taxpayer dollars."

The protests were among several staged Friday as outrage over family separations continued. Some churches scheduled rallies, while a group of District of Columbia mothers planned to protest outside the entrance to the Department of Homeland Security.

Earlier in the day, about two dozen people gathered to protest outside the Alexandria, Virginia, home of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. According to an organizer of the protest, Nielsen was seen leaving through the back door of the home as the protest wound down around 8:30 a.m.

On Tuesday, she was heckled by protesters at a Mexican restaurant two blocks from the White House.

The Trump administration has halted its policy of separating illegal border crossers from their children, but many among the youths removed from migrant parents since May 5 - at least 2,500 - remain in shelters and foster homes across the country. The U.S. government has done little to help with reunifications, attorneys say, prompting them to launch a frantic, improvised effort to find the children - some of them toddlers.

Attorneys have described heart-wrenching meetings with their clients, who ask again and again for information about their children, often weeping, in South Texas detention centers.

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