Thousands of people of all ages rallied in at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac to rally against family separation on Saturday.
Police estimated about 10,000 demonstrators attended the “Families Belong Together” event in SeaTac — one of more than 750 events taking place in all 50 states — to protest family separation at the border and immigrant detention.
The nationwide actions called for the reunification of families, the end of family incarceration, and the end of the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy — which meant any adult crossing the U.S. border without documentation faced prosecution while their children were sent to shelters. Although the President signed an executive order on June 20 reversing the family separation policy, many children are still separated from their parents.
“What’s happening to these kids is hard for me as a mother,” said Karla Andana of Auburn, who immigrated from El Salvador.
“Even though we, as parents, try to shelter our kids, they’re exposed to all this,” said Andana who attended the rally with her two children — Moses, 12, and Angel, 11. “This is a way for us to help our fellow immigrants.”
Many came to the demonstration via crowded light rail trains to Angle Lake Station, which is a few blocks from the prison.
The event started at 11:30 a.m. with an acknowledgement of Duwamish land, an indigenous prayer song, and the American Indian Movement song — a song calling for action on behalf of the most vulnerable communities. Attendees held up signs, listened to speakers and participated in songs and chants for more than two hours, through multiple instances of light rain.
“When I meet with clients here and at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, we let them know there are people outside of those walls supporting them,” said Malou Chávez, deputy director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, while speaking to the crowd. “And that makes them very hopeful.”
Chavez shared the story of three clients seeking asylum in the United States — mothers who were separated from their children by officials without explanation and incarcerated in the Northwest. The mothers have not seen their children for more than a month, Chavez said.
The clients’ children, ages five to eight, are in centers in Texas and New York while they wait for immigration officials to process their parents’ asylum claims.
“As one client puts it, this is ‘secuestro’ — kidnapping,” Chavez said.
Individuals from Washington Dream Coalition, with undocumented status, shared personal stories of family separation, and organizers from Casa Latina, One America and Asian Counseling and Referral Service led chants like, “No estás solo, you are not alone,” “No ban, no wall,” and “Undocumented and unafraid.” Representatives from the Council on American Islamic Relations Washington State chapter and Black Lives Matter King County spoke on the intersections of the struggles of different marginalized communities.
“As an unapologetic Muslim, I can tell you that we will continue to fight together and we will succeed,” said Jasmin Samy, interim executive director of CAIR-WA, to applause from the crowd.
Organizers reminded attendees that the work of changing the immigration system does not end at the end of the rally, and encouraged attendees to continue donating, volunteering, mobilizing and educating themselves.
A number of local organizations were recognized for their contributions to the event, including Washington Immigrant Coalition, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, MomsRising, Seattle Indivisible, Refugee Women’s Alliance, Our Revolution Ballard, Faith Action Network, El Centro de la Raza, Tacoma Rainbow Center, and Social Justice Fund Northwest.
“The people at the head right now think we can be pushed over,” said Muguette Guenneguez, of Seattle, who immigrated from Haiti more than 40 years ago. “We are going to stand up to them and show the world America’s something worth fighting for.”