Families Belong Together – June 30, 2018, Medford

“Open the Cages, Free the Children” shouted one of many signs at the Families Belong Together rally Saturday at Medford’s Vogel Plaza. “Familias Unidas” and “No Dividen Las Familias” said others.

The Statue of Liberty paraded with a sign crying “Help!” “Make America America Again,” “We Don’t Take Your Jobs, We Do the Jobs You Don’t Want,” “When Injustice Becomes Law, Resistance Becomes Duty,” and “I Work with Asylum Seekers in Tucson, Arizona,” said others. Many ralliers wore mylar coats symbolizing the bedding given to caged immigrant children.

My all-time favorite sign read, “If immigrants are drug dealers and rapists, and if immigrants steal our jobs, what in the hell do you do for a living?”

Speakers talked of child abuse and racial discrimination as the legacy of white supremacy. “We must end the practice of separating families,” Dagoberto Morales, director of Unete, demanded. “The White House does not have the power to dismantle the Flores Settlement,” he said, referring to litigation begun in 1985 and concluded in 1997 that requires the government to release children from immigration detention without unnecessary delay.

In the breaking down of immigration safeguards, he cited Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s ending of mandatory hearings for asylum seekers in March and imposition of a quota of 700 cases a year for immigration judges, a quota no other court is subject to. On June 11 Sessions declared that victims of domestic abuse no longer qualify for asylum. Morales called this “part of a multi-pronged attack on immigration.”

Speaker Victoria de Cona said, “Sometimes we talk about children and forget about the parents.” She described the parents as “very strong, very silent, but they cannot do it alone.” She could not say whether she and her family would be swept up in the immigration net. “Don’t be silent,” she concluded.

Jessica Sage, co-founder of Indivisible, read messages from Sen. Jeff Merkley, who was the first senator to visit an immigration facility in Brownsville, Texas, and Oregon’s senior senator Ron Wyden. “For generations one of the best symbols of our country has been the Statue of Liberty,” Merkley wrote, and quoted the statue’s words, ending with “The Trump administration has shut the golden door.”

“We have seen the cages and the mylar floor mats, read the stories of desperate parents. Thousands of children are still separated from their parents. We need your action.”

“I will fight tooth and nail to protect asylum seekers,” Wyden said.

Sage commented that the two senators could not say, but she would, “Trump is not my president and must be stopped.”

Joyce Chapman, representing congressional candidate Jamie McLeod-Skinner, said “Thank you for standing up to this administration. Out political leadership is completely out of touch. In Oregon we care about our families. Out congressman is not standing up for us. We must change our laws and fix the system to ensure fair and just policies. Now is the time to hold our leaders accountable.”

Candidate Jeff Golden asked, “What kind of nation are we? We are not a nation that tears families apart. We haven’t been standing up to who we are as a nation. We must be the resistance that creates a country we want to live in.”

Valerina Ramirez spoke in Spanish with a translator. “Being the eldest daughter of immigrants caused me many problems,” she said. “I was forced to become independent at a young age. Since the beginning of the Trump era, I realized I could not express myself as before. I realize there are people who think my dad is a racist and my mom sells drugs.” “The people in charge of this nation do not care,” she concluded.

The rally was co-sponsored by Indivisible, MoveOn, and Unete Oregon.

(Pictures on the way!)

Addie Greene

Ashland Chronicle