Thousands protest in US over migrant separations
Radio NZ International
June 30, 2018 6:15 pm
Tens of thousands of people have joined nationwide protests across the US over the Trump administration’s strict migrant policy.
More than 630 events were planned calling for migrant families split up at the US border to be reunited.
Some 2000 children remain separated from their parents, despite President Donald Trump’s executive order ending the controversial policy.
He bowed to public pressure after weeks of domestic and international outrage.
The order stopped children being taken from parents who face criminal prosecution as part of the president’s policy of “zero tolerance” towards illegal crossings of the US border from Mexico.
Faced with a backlash, President Trump instead promised to “keep families together” in migrant detention centres.
However, critics say the order did not address the issue of families already separated, with 2,342 children taken away from their parents between 5 May and 9 June alone.
Earlier this week, a judge in California ordered the families to be reunited within 30 days.
It is likely to be one of the biggest protests over immigration, an issue that has proved deeply divisive under the presidency of Donald Trump.
What do the protesters want?
People across many major towns and cities in the US had been urged to gather under the slogan #familiesbelongtogether. Organisers say they want to send a message to President Trump, who they fear will go back on his executive order.
“We cannot slow down now since the court ruling alone isn’t enough and could be overturned,” the movement’s website says.
As well as reuniting parents with their children, organisers are calling for an end to immigrant detention – even when families are kept together – and also plan to voice opposition to President Trump’s travel ban targeting five majority-Muslim nations, which was upheld by the US Supreme Court earlier this week.
Demonstrations were also likely to focus on the shake-up of the Supreme Court after Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement last week, giving President Trump the opportunity to solidify a conservative majority on the country’s top court.
Much of the uproar over the separation policy came after news organisations reported children being held in cells, converted warehouses and desert tents around the country.
President Trump on Saturday (local time) defended the agency that played a central role in carrying out the separations – the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
He told its employees: “You are doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe by eradicating the worst criminal elements. So brave!”