Thousands Gather in SeaTac for Nationwide “Families Belong Together” Rally

by Alex Garland

In a show of unity and solidarity Saturday, thousands of demonstrators gathered at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center to protest current immigration policies, the mistreatment of immigrant families, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) practice of separating children from their parents.

The Families Belong Together rally, a nationwide coordinated day of action, kicked off a week of activity directed at ICE treatment of immigrants and the Trump Administration’s immigration policy. The event at SeaTac brought together between 6,000 and 8,000 people, including unions, veterans, human rights organizations, elected officials, and community members.

Photo by Naomi Ishisaka

The SeaTac Federal Detention Center is currently holding at least 200 immigrants, according to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Of those, she said 174 are women, and 26 are men. These detainees are a fraction of those currently held for processing and deportation across the country, in addition to those already serving time on immigration charges.

Jayapal was the first member of Congress to speak directly with parents impacted by Trump’s family separation policy inside a federal prison and has been arrested twice in recent weeks protesting President Trump’s policies of family separation and indefinite family incarceration, policies she calls “cruel.”

Fé Lopez, executive director of Seattle’s Community Police Commission

There are also 1,575 immigrants and asylum seekers at Tacoma’s Northwest Detention Center (NWDC), a private prison run by the Geo Group. According to immigration activist Maru Mora-Villalpando, “over half of the NWDC population comes from the border.”

Other speakers included immigrants and refugees who shared their stories of coming to the United States. They spoke of the hardships they faced, determination they had for a better life, and the widely-held belief that the U.S. would be a safer place for them to raise their families than the home they’d known all their lives.

“I want [those incarcerated in the detention center] to know that we are all outraged, and their struggle is not theirs alone.” —Graciela Nuñez Pargas
Silvia Gonzalez, member of Casa Latina; Photo by Naomi Ishisaka

Following the rally, people traveling by Light Rail talked, many exchanging phone numbers. As the train made its way back toward Seattle, one rally attendee said to another, “This shows us that people feel like we do, that we aren’t alone, that there are thousands of us who are unified in this fight. It gives us something to hope for.”

“We stand with [prisoners held in the detention center] in solidarity. We want to fight for them and stand up for what is right.”—Leah Eister-Hargrave

Featured image by Alex Garland; all other photos by Alex Garland unless specified.