Families Belong Together Rally

June 14, 2018

Hello. My name is Anne Bridgman and I speak to you today as a member of the Refugee Resettlement Coalition of Lane County. RRCLC is a coalition of faith-based groups, service organizations, and concerned individuals from the Eugene-Springfield community coordinating with Catholic Community Services to welcome and support refugees resettling in Lane County. Since 2016, we have helped settle 7 refugees in Lane County. We also assist asylum seekers, and we engage in advocacy and community education.

I also speak to you today as the granddaughter of immigrants who traveled to the Untied States from what was then Syria.

And I speak to you today as a mom who cannot fathom the horror of having my child forcibly removed from me. Nor can I imagine the trauma that such an inhumane action inflicts on the children.

Thank you for coming out today to stand for the innocent children who are being taken from their parents. I am grateful to live in a community that values these lives. I am grateful to live among people like you who understand the sacred bond between parents and children.

I am also grateful to have as my senator Jeff Merkley, who has tried to visit detention centers, only to be turned away by the private prison guards hired by ICE. And I am grateful to Senator Ron Wyden, who, with Senator Merkley and more than 30 Democrats, introduced legislation to prevent the Department of Homeland Security from splitting up families at the border.

Today, we protest the new Administration policy that has separated thousands of children of immigrants and asylum seekers from their parents at the border. We protest an administration that takes an infant from his mother while she is breastfeeding. An administration that puts children in cages in detention centers.

Jeff Sessions calls this a zero-tolerance policy. Senator Merkley calls it a zero-humanity policy.

We also protest the policy that transports the parents of these children to jails and, in some cases, federal prisons, including one in Sheridan, Oregon, less than 100 miles from here. These detainees may have legitimate claims to asylum. They should not be held in federal prisons.

Asylum seekers—who come to the U.S. border seeking protection from persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion—have broken no laws by presenting themselves at our border.

In the past, immigrants have either been released or, if detained, allowed to remain with their children. But regardless of what the parents have done, the children are not culpable. Children cannot be culpable. They should not be removed forcibly from their parents. They should not be housed in cages without access to their families.

Even the UN Office for Human Rights has condemned the practice and asked the U.S. to halt it immediately, saying “there is nothing normal about detaining children.”

Today, I encourage you to take 4 actions to protest separating children from their families:

  1. Call the U.S. Department of Justice (202-353-1555) to remind them that we are a country of immigrants. Tell them you do not support this cruel new policy and you want to keep families together. Tell them that children who are separated from their parents need free legal representation paid for by the government.
  2. Call Governor Kate Brown (503-378-4582) and email Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum (attorneygeneral@doj.state.or.us) and ask that they follow the lead of Washington’s governor and attorney general and demand that the individuals held at Sheridan be reunited with their children and be given access to pro bono legal counsel.
  3. If you can, donate to the ACLU, which has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of the hundreds of families separated when they entered the country to seek asylum.
  4. Share the news about these unconscionable actions with your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family. Share it on social media and write a letter to the editor. Keep it in the public eye so we don’t forget the children who are scared and crying and living in cages.

These actions with phone numbers will be listed on the Facebook page of the refugee
coalition—facebook.com/rrclc.

In conclusion, I know in these confusing times it can be hard to feel like you’re making a difference, and that makes taking actions available to you even more important. Thank you for coming today. Thank you for standing for innocent children and doing what is right.

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