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Community groups hold ‘Families Belong Together’ rallies across nation

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent

Nationwide, coalitions of spiritual, humanitarian, social justice, and community action groups have been organizing to combat the inhuman and unspiritual actions on the part of the Trump Administration as it relates to immigrate deportation, separation of families, and lack of immigration reform rallies.

The rallies and marches are called “Families Belong Together!” and were part of the civil rights landscape on June 30, 2018 in dozens of cities across the United States.

In Michigan, NextGen Michigan co-hosted Families Belong Together rallies in Lansing, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, and Pontiac. In Toledo, action groups organized their rally to continue the call for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Border Patrol to stop separating families as they seek to deport undocumented immigrants. Immigration reform and stopping racial profiling were also sought.

Moreover, while much of the national rhetoric had subsequently focused on Donald Trump’s executive order to stop separating families at the U.S-Mexico border, Northern Ohio seemed to be ground-zero in what some are calling a full-frontal assault on undocumented migrants by raiding their places of employment. ICE agents staged the second raid in June at a meat-processing plant in Salem, Ohio, arresting 145 migrant workers.

That brings the total June number of Ohio detainees to more than 250 adults, with dozens of children now separated from their families as parents spend their days in federal detention centers or prisons with contracts to hold them for deportation proceedings in the coming weeks or months.

“This is death by a thousand cuts. These raids are directly impacting undocumented community members who are working, so they are contributing to their communities,” said Brittany Ford, co-leader of Welcome Toledo-Lucas County. “They’re integrated, they’re going to churches, they have children, many of them are U.S.-born children. We want to highlight we need to keep these families together and these ICE raids, deportations, and separating families at the border or keeping them together but putting them in detention centers is not good policy.”

The Welcome Toledo-Lucas County, the Latino Alliance of Northwest Ohio, Toledo Immigrant Alliance, Indivisible Toledo, and other community action and support groups hosted the June 30th rally in front of what's been dubbed the “Love Wall” at Adams and 13th Streets in uptown Toledo. 

The colorful mural is a popular spot for people to pose for photos, but it is also a rallying point for ethnic groups, social justice organizations, and others angry over the those two recent ICE raids in Salem and Sandusky, Ohio. More than 500 people attended the rally.

Some believe Ohio is a deliberate target, because of the Ohio governor’s opposition to many of the practices of Trump. “We’re a little concerned that is possible. We don’t have the immigrant rights infrastructure that Michigan, Illinois, and Tennessee have statewide,” said Ms. Ford. “Some of the immigrant rights groups are activists and dip into that space—ABLE and FLOC and others—but we don’t have a Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. I think it would be great if we built that infrastructure in Ohio, but I think it would take time.”

Rally organizers say that the majority of those detainees are still separated from their kids, so Trump's executive order has done nothing to help those immigrant families. The rally is expected to serve as a call to action for deportation defense efforts, as well as upcoming voter registration drives.

“We really need to rally around our providers, especially around our legal services providers right now,” said Ms. Ford, citing a lack of immigration rights attorneys in the area’s affected.

According to an ICE spokesman, fewer than 200 adults remain in federal custody, as some are released for “humanitarian reasons.” About 60 detainees were let go by the weekend from the Salem raid, including one who was about to give birth and another suffering from leukemia. Most of the others released had entered the country legally and lacked proper documentation at the time of the raid.


Recent meeting at the University of Toledo

Some of Toledo’s Latino leaders joined top administrators and board members from the Ohio Commission on Hispanic-Latino Affairs (OCHLA) at a meeting with a ICE community relations representative Valentina Seeley held Tuesday morning, June 19, at the University of Toledo’s Minority Business Affairs Center (MBAC) on the Scott Park campus.

That meeting originally was set up to focus on workforce and economic development efforts in Northwest Ohio, but quickly was redirected to the immediate needs of the migrant worker community in the aftermath of the ICE raids. Lilleana Cavanaugh, OCHLA executive director, and Northwest Ohio OCHLA board representative Dr. Greg Guzmán led the discussion with ICE.

“Our main job, basically, has been to try to ensure that those who are eligible for state government services are receiving those,” said Ms. Cavanaugh. “If there are any issues for having access to services that we learn about those so we can help connect them with the right people and entities to ensure those folks are receiving the help that they need.”

The meeting was attended by Toledo City Council member Gary Johnson, Toledo Hispanic Affairs Commission member Scott López, Latino Alliance of Northwest Ohio, Inc.’s president Guisselle Mendoza-McDonald, along with community advocates Mark Urrutia, Margarita DeLeón, Celeste Taylor, Carmen Barbosa, Aleigha Jones, Anita Folger Martínez, Monica Ortiz, among others.

“What the public is seeing is the trauma, that is, the separation of the children from the families and particularly minors,” said Ms. Cavanaugh. “The questions we’re asking is ‘are the children safe?’ ‘Are the children being helped?’ ‘Where are the kids?’ So far, from the knowledge that I have from the people that are on the ground, they have reassured me that the kids are okay right now. The question is: what happens afterward?”

“In the eye of the public, it’s all the same. What they see is this trauma of family separation and the most vulnerable being left to fate—and that fate is not something that we want to see,” said Ms. Cavanaugh.

“People are very protective of these kids. Please remember that a great number of these children are U.S. citizens. They have been born here,” said Ms. Cavanaugh. “They have all the legal rights to safety and services. In my mind, the people who are sheltering these kids will make sure they have access to all the needed services they deserve and they need. This is not something that is going to go away in the next month or two. I think the trauma and the scars these young people are suffering will require long-term attention.”

The OCHLA executive director speculated that “mental health and behavioral services are going to be at a premium,” especially if the children stay behind in the U.S. while one or both parents are deported primarily to Mexico and other Central American countries. “There are some really good people on the ground” trying to lend a helping hand, according to Ms. Cavanaugh.

“Many of these kids probably won’t stay here,” she said. “Many may stay with relatives and I know some will go back with the family if that is what they decide to do. But this is an ongoing situation and it’s still very, very early in the process for us to be able to make with certainty any decisions or forecasts as to who will stay or what is to happen with the kids.”

But many of the meeting participants left that meeting unsatisfied with the answers they received from the ICE rep, some even angrier about the situation than before.

“Let me put it this way: she is reaching out and trying hard to help us understand what they are doing and I think, to the best of her ability, she is sharing with all of us the information that she is able to share,” explained Ms. Cavanaugh. “She is simply an ambassador. She is speaking about the job she is trying to do to inform the community. But she is not the person who made these decisions on behalf of the government. I think she was good in the sense of providing plenty of opportunity for people to ask questions and try to explain some of the dynamics that take place. Overall I think she was candid in trying to be open and available and try to answer as many questions as she could.”


New Americans Advisory Committee

Mrs. Mendoza-McDonald will be one of the voices on immigration going forward. She was recently appointed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to serve on his new 12-member New Americans Advisory Committee, a panel designed to help identify barriers faced by immigrants that make it difficult for them to work, study, or assimilate.

Mrs. Mendoza-McDonald is a native of Nicaragua who obtained her citizenship a couple of years ago. She is director of operations for the Lucas County Treasurer’s office and a steering board member for the Welcome TLC, an initiative that works to welcome newly arrived immigrants and refugees.

“I think the future of our state depends a lot on how we’re able to be inclusive of all New American communities, not only Latinos,” said Ms. Cavanaugh. “I believe New Americans are critical to the empowerment, to the growth of the state, and this is an opportunity for us to have very candid conversations about diversity and inclusion and why we need to be more welcoming to all.”

The raids come at a time when U.S. Census Bureau estimates show the Hispanic population has grown in Ohio and Michigan since the 2010 official head count. For example, an estimated 86,212 Latinos came to Ohio in the last seven years, boosting Ohio’s Hispanic numbers to nearly four percent of the state’s overall population. Ohio’s population continues to become more diverse. The Hispanic population in Michigan now exceeds 500,000.

Some people believe that the Trump Administration is waking a sleeping giant in Ohio, Michigan, and elsewhere with such a full-frontal assault on immigration just months before the mid-term Congressional elections in November.

“We are definitely encouraging people to contact their Congress people and Senators, to really make sure their voices are heard—because at that level, the federal level, in Congress is where this is going to be changed,” said Ms. Cavanaugh.

“It will only be changed by the pressure of the people and by holding their elected officials accountable. That is something concrete people can do. Until we are counted because we are being heard, because we are making ourselves noticeable, things will not change in the dramatic extent that we need it to change.”

Rico de La Prensa contributed to this report.

On the Internet:  https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/frequently-requested-statistics-immigrants-and-immigration-united-states



Copyright © 1989 to 2018 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/02/18 21:11:35 -0700.




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