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Crowd demands humane border policy

A slew of political leaders, activists and local community members gathered beneath the hot sun Saturday to slam President Trump’s family separation policy – which has seen a wave of criticism across the nation in the past few weeks and led the President to sign an order stopping the practice for the time being.

“I want to thank all of you for raising your voices for humane immigration policy rooted in American values. That’s what today is all about,” U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said to hundreds of gatherers, many clumped in the shade of two large trees outside the Hispanic Cultural Center. “We are going to have to raise our voices, again and again and again. But it is already having an impact.”

The event “Unite Against Family Separation” saw almost every big-name Democratic politician in the state speak against the Trump administration policy and offer their support along with community activists and professionals who attested to the trauma visited upon children separated from their families.

“We’ve heard the cries, we’ve heard the voices, we’ve seen the images right?” state Attorney General Hector Balderas said. “Are we ready to fight for the rule of law which protects every individual, including beautiful little children who step foot on this soil?”

The son of an immigrant, Balderas vowed to sue President Trump over any constitutional or due process violations that come out of the administration’s immigration policies and practices.

Steve Johnson executive director at A New Day Youth and Family Services, an agency serving at-risk youth and their families, spoke on the effect family separation has on those most directly affected.

“Putting politics aside for a moment, let’s just talk about the people that are involved in this,” Johnson said, calling the parent-child bond the “most profound” bond. “When that bond is broken, it is a significant trauma.”

He said the severe trauma experienced by children being separated from their parents is “toxic,” it changes the brain and teaches them the world is “not a safe place to live and to grow.”

“Socially, smart people would not do this – the cost is just too high,” Johnson said. “We need to ask ourselves: Why is this happening?”

Margarita Perez said she has been asking that same question.

“I don’t understand the criminality that’s happening against our kids,” Perez said. “For me, as a mother, as a human – that is beyond my understanding”

Born in Mexico City and immigrated to the U.S. more than 20 years ago, Perez knows what it’s like to seek a better life in America.

“We need strong political figures that support our people, our causes,” she said. “That’s why I’m here – to ask for justice.”

Sylvia Wittels said, while appalled, she was not surprised at the administration’s policy.

“That’s kind of what I expect from Trump,” she said.

Wittels said she considers herself “politically lazy” and, although she is a regular voter, it took the current administration’s “callous disregard” to get her moving.

“I’m still bewildered by how we don’t know where the children are,” Wittels said.

“We live in such a documented society, I find that hard to believe.”