A few dozen Rexburg residents gathered together in front of the Porter Park Beehive Pavilion on June 14 to say they are against the policy of separating immigrant families at the border.
This event is part of nationwide protests demanding that the Donald Trump administration end this practice. Local citizens with their kids were in attendance as well as BYU-Idaho students. People were there in support of keeping families together at the border, regardless of their legal status.
Annalisa Wiggins, the organizer of this event, opened the event by welcoming everyone and giving the itinerary for the event. She read a statement from Families Belong Together, the organization that helped organize the nationwide protests, which explained what the event was about.
“Families Belong Together opposes the cruel, inhumane and unjustified separation of children from their parents along the U.S. border with Mexico and at other ports of entry into the U.S.,” Wiggins read to the crowd. “To separate immigrant families, victims of violence, hunger and poverty, is to re-violate them. Children as young as 18 months are torn from their mother’s arms by the U.S. government. … These families are victimized again by the government to which they turn for help.”
As the event continued, more individuals arrived with family and friends. Those in attendance were given the chance to go on stage and perform songs or dances. Songs such as Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome” were sung with a piano accompanist.
Some in attendance held signs saying, “The U.S. should stop stealing kids” and “Why are we taking babies from their Mothers.”
“I’ve been marching since the ’60s,” said Deb Grant, an event attendee. “And I came here because what is being done is wrong. Families are meant to be eternal, that’s what we (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe.”
As the attendees talked and mingled with one another, some discussed how a few of their friends incorrectly assume that the immigrants being separated at the border are only those crossing the border without papers or crossing outside of legal ports of entry.
According to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, large portion of the families being separated at the border are coming to the country legally. Most immigrants are seeking asylum through a U.S. legal port of entry. Seeking asylum is not against the law, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is required by federal law to process anyone seeking asylum. Despite this, families are still being separated, and there is no law requiring the separations to occur, just the “zero-tolerance” policy from the Trump administration, according to PBS.
According to The New York Times, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the “zero-tolerance” policy while speaking to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind. He called the criticism of this policy not fair or logical. He then read Roman 13:1 from the Bible in it’s defense, saying we as a nation need “to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”
Sessions, said the U.S. government facilities where the children are staying are run by the Department of Health and Human Services, and that the children are taken care of. NBCNews reported many of the children ended up in enormous facilities that more closely resemble prisons, where they spend 22 hours a day locked inside.
Sessions was criticized by multiple historians for using that scripture to defend the new policy. They explained that this scripture was used in the past by loyalists who opposed the Revolutionary War and it was used to defend slavery. This verse was also used to defend Nazi Germany rule and apartheid in South Africa.
After a bit of mingling as an attendee played the piano in the background, Wiggins got on the stage again and read part of the poem “Home” by Warson Shire.
“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark,” Wiggins read. “You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well … you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
After reading the poem, she asked for 60 seconds of silence as those in attendance stood with their hands raised in unity with the families being separated at the border.
After the moment of silence, students from BYU-I went on stage and danced the bachata in front of those in attendance. Demares Rivera, one of the dancers and a junior majoring in public health, was happy to dance and share Latin American culture, even though it was impromptu.
“I heard about this from a friend today,” Rivera said. “I was happy to see this happening and to have help from people outside of the Latino community.”
Rivera and most of her family are citizens, so she said she’s safe. However, she has friends who are not safe and being affected by this.
“This (immigration) is part of my culture too,” Rivera said.
Towards the end of the evening, as the event began to wind down, members of the Kobie Watkins’ Grouptet appeared and went on stage to play a few jazz songs to the remaining attendees.