by Neal McNamara
(This article originally appeared on Patch.com and has been republished with permission)
On deadline day for President Donald Trump’s administration to reunite families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, a group of more than 100 protesters demonstrated outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in downtown Seattle Thursday morning.
Shouting chants like “money for jobs and education, not deportation,” a line of protesters (Councilwoman Kshama Sawant included) sat in front of the entrance to 1000 2nd Avenue with arms linked, preventing people from entering and exiting. Scores more protesters stood nearby holding signs and giving speeches.
“Each day a child is behind bars, they are being traumatized!” said Isabel Quijano, a domestic worker and immigrant. “Those children are in jail!”
Thursday is the court-imposed deadline for the Trump administration to reunite approximately 2,500 families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. About 900 are not eligible for reunification, Justice Department lawyers said this week. That’s because the parents have already been deported.
“They were tricked!” Casa Latina’s Araceli Hernandez said in a speech. “They were told they would be reunited if they accepted deportation!”
Demonstrators have been holding vigils from 8 to 10 a.m. daily outside the 2nd Avenue ICE office. Thursday’s protest was exceptionally larger because of the reunification deadline. Trump stopped the separations in June after massive public outcry.
In the Seattle area, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) has filed a class action suit on behalf of three mothers who were separated from their children and who were later imprisoned at a federal detention facility in SeaTac. Protests have also been happening in Tacoma at the Northwest Detention Center, where undocumented people are held as they proceed through immigration court.
Seattle police and Department of Homeland Security police stood watch over Thursday’s protest, but there was no violence. At one point, a man trying to enter the building shoved a protester. Some people angrily swore at the protesters. But many other passersby seemed supportive of the demonstration.
One man driving a garbage truck along 2nd Avenue honked for a few beats and held up his fist.
“The reactions are incredible,” said protester Kate Stewart. She was standing along 2nd Avenue holding a sign. Some people driving by honked in support, but one person told Stewart “F–k you,” she said.
Featured image by Susan Fried: The Reverend Paul Benz, Co-Director of Faith Action Network, center links arms with other protestors outside ICE headquarters.