CLEVELAND - Hundreds of people gathered in Public Square on Saturday to protest President Donald Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy.
The rally coincided with rallies in other cities across the country, denouncing the immigration policy that has led to families being separated at the border. Earlier this month and amid public outcry, President Trump signed an executive order reversing the policy of separating children from their families. The federal government is now in the process of trying to reunify those migrant families.
“But for the grace of God, you’re in America. If you weren’t born here and didn’t have the privilege that you have, you would be [crossing the border] too,” said Avril Burg, one of the organizers of the rally on in Public Square Saturday. “You would be crossing the border and doing anything for your children.”
Many protestors held signs with phrases like ‘families belong together’ and ‘immigrants make America great.’ Protest organizers also issued several demands, including the immediate reunification of families, the complete abolition or defunding of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the creation of an immigration system that ‘values human dignity.’
“I didn’t run for office. I don’t have a plan. I do know what’s right and I do know what is wrong. What I would like to see is reunite these families immediately,” Burg said. “Whatever the answer is, it cannot include hurting children. It can’t.”
ICE also has other duties separate from immigration, including fighting human trafficking, child exploitation and cyber crimes, among other duties.
One of the speakers at Saturday’s rally was Jimmy Rodriguez, whose father was among the dozens of people detained as part of a massive ICE round-up and investigation into allegations of falsified employment records at a Sandusky-area landscaping company.
According to federal officials, the investigation started after authorities discovered a woman had been falsifying employment records as part of an illegal ‘document mill.’ Federal authorities said some of the workers that had been hired had social security numbers that belonged to dead people.
Since his father was retained, Rodriguez, who just recently graduated, has been tasked with supporting his family, including his mother and two siblings.
“It’s really frustrating, you know, going through this every day and seeing families torn apart,” Rodriguez said. “We only come to the United States for a better life, for a better education for our children. To see us being treated like animals, criminals and thugs, that’s not right.”
Rodriguez’s father has a hearing scheduled for mid-July, he said.