Demonstrators fanned out across Birmingham’s Kelly Ingram Park Saturday to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. It was one of hundreds of such rallies across the U.S. calling for children to be immediately reunited with their families.
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy” separated more than 2,500 undocumented children from their parents who had tried to enter the U.S. illegally, many of whom were seeking asylum from violence and persecution. Most of those children still haven’t been reunited with their parents.
Speakers with several Alabama immigrant rights groups and faith leaders took to the stage to call on people to stay involved. A young Hispanic girl addressed the crowd and asked them what they would do if she was taken away from her parents. Others, including Ashfaq Taufique, president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, emphasized the role Birmingham plays, given it is steeped in civil rights history, in changing the course of American policy.
Birmingham pediatrician Dr. Morissa Ladinsky spoke of the ill health effects children suffer as a result of being separated from their parents. “Pediatricians are here to protect and promote your health,” she said. “Children matter. Families matter,” she said. “We’re not backing down.” She said she stood by the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Karen Craft’s statement that Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border “amounts to child abuse.”
A representative with the organization Shut Down Etowah, which calls for the closure of the Etowah County’s immigrant detention center, spoke about the poor conditions and inhumane treatment detainees face there. Many of those detainees are brought in from other states. Detainees there often spend years awaiting deportation or immigration hearings.
Immigrant justice groups such as the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama and Adelante urged vigilance and action in the event of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids. ICE reportedly conducted raids in Alabaster and possibly Homewood last week.