Protests took place across the country Saturday amid growing confusion about what an end to separating families caught crossing the borders will mean for those who have already been split up and for new arrivals. Several Democratic lawmakers also used the day to visit facilities holding immigrant children.
At a facility in McAllen, Texas protesters briefly blocked a bus that was carrying immigrants. “Shame! Shame!” they shouted at border agents. Twenty-five Democrats visited a detention center near McAllen and said there really is no clear process to reunite children and parents. “In terms of reunification, I have zero—zero—understanding that anyone has been reunited with their parents,” Rep. Jackie Speier from California said.
Reps. Beto O’Rourke and Joaquin Castro and Sen. Tom Udall visited a new tent camp in Tornillo, Texas and confirmed there are almost 300 minors being housed there. They were allowed inside for about an hour and said that while the conditions are humane, they expressed concern at the length of time some of the minors say they have been detained. “We asked, ‘How long have you been in detention?’ We heard one month, we heard two months, we heard up to three months,” O’Rourke said. Lots of demonstrators also gathered to protest against the White House immigration policies.
In San Diego, some 5,000 people took part in a march downtown to protest family separation that ended at the local offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. California religious leaders, meanwhile, organized a protest outside the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego. California state Sen. Kevin de León, who is challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein, joined the protest, which was one of many taking place across the state Saturday. “Californians from every single background gathered on the border to send a message of love to the children and parents who have been brutally torn apart,” he wrote on Twitter.
In parallel, there were several “Occupy ICE” protests around the country. In New York, for example, protesters blocked the loading dock of the ICE headquarters, while protesters set up tents outside an ICE facility in Los Angeles.
In Florida, meanwhile, Democrats also visited a facility housing immigrant children, and emphasized that while the conditions appeared humane there was no clear policy in place to reunite families. “The absolutely critical thing that we have to have is making sure the administration immediately adopts a policy that helps these children, particularly those who were involuntarily separated from their parents at the border, to be reunified with their parents,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Sen. Bill Nelson agreed that “the facilities are nice” but said that “the question is the reunification of the 2,300 children.” Thousands of protesters gathered there as well to protest Trump’s immigration policies.