SEATTLE — On Father's Day, protesters gathered at Seattle's Westlake to rally against the separation of families illegally crossing the U.S. border and families separated while seeking asylum.
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported nearly 2,000 minors were separated from their families at the border over a six-week period in a crackdown on illegal entries, according to Department of Homeland Security figures they obtained.
The Father's Day rally comes after undocumented mothers were taken from their children and transported to SeaTac from the southern border for detainment.
The Seattle rally started at noon. Similar rallies were held in other areas of the country Sunday.
The rally event page, Families Belong Together (Familias Unidas No Divididas), showed over 3,500 people interested in attending. The Northwest Immigrants Rights Project organization endorsed the rally.
Signs at the rally read, "Stop holding children hostage," and "Imagine your children alone, terrified, in an inhumane environment, with no comfort."
On the event's online page, organizers listed three demands:
- We demand the immediate release of the imprisoned asylum seekers—mothers and fathers all—and that they be reunited with their children.
- Washington State agencies and the City of Seattle should not collaborate with or facilitate immigration enforcement, detention, or deportation.
- Finally, the State of Washington immediately closes any public and privately owned immigration prisons.
Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal spoke to the crowd Sunday, first wishing dads a happy Father's Day.
"Every father should have the right to nurture their children," Jayapal said to the crowd. "And there are 32 men at the federal prison in SeaTac that were part of the 206 that were transferred from the southern border."
A rally against the detainment in SeaTac was also held last weekend on Saturday, June 9.
At that rally, Jayapal said she was able to meet with the detained women for hours.
"I was able to meet with all of the women that are being held there. ... They come from sixteen countries. The vast majority of them are seeking political asylum," Jayapal said. "A huge number of them are mothers whose children were taken away from them when they were apprehended at the border or when they turned themselves in."
"They literally never had a chance to say goodbye to their children," Jayapal said.
She also said the majority of detained mothers had no idea where their children were.
Jayapal called the separation "heartbreaking."
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson shared a letter after reports surfaced of the women detained in SeaTac, asking for more and immediate information on the asylum seekers taken to SeaTac.
Under a "zero tolerance" policy announced by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security officials are referring all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution, according to the Associated Press. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.
"This does not need legislation," Jayapal said at the Father's Day rally in Seattle. "The only thing that needs to happen is Donald Trump needs to say, 'No. I am not going to do this anymore.'"
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