Salt Lake joins nationwide immigration reform rallies

Rick Bowmer
Activists hold signs during a rally to protest the Trump administration’s approach to illegal border crossings and separation of children from immigrant parents Saturday, June 30, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

An estimated 2,500 people rallied at Utah’s Capitol building in Salt Lake City on June 30 to protest President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

The rally, spurred by recent outrage at the separation of illegal immigrant families at the border, was one of hundreds across the nation. The rallies are in protest of children being separated from their families at the border.

Protestors marched from City Creek Park to the Capitol building. Chants, songs, speeches and signs demanded all separated families be reunited and the unfair treatment of immigrants end.

The protest gathered people of many ages and backgrounds. Many families brought young children whom they carried on their shoulders through the march and let play in the grass at the Capitol throughout the rally. Some of the children carried signs of their own.

Emily Dunbar, who was at the rally with her husband and two young sons, said she was disgusted by how immigrants were being treated and that it was important to her that her sons see her fight for her values.

“I want them to be active in our country and in expressing our values, and I want them to know that we fought against injustice and inhumanity,” Dunbar said.

Bailey Peterson, a 15-year-old who attended the rally with her mother put the feelings of many simply when she said, “Children are supposed to be with their families. It’s a big part of growing up, … and they shouldn’t have to be separated. It’s just so annoying.”

Rick Bowmer
Activists, including one holding a “Star Wars”-themed sign, gather during a rally to protest the Trump administration’s approach to illegal border crossings and separation of children from immigrant parents Saturday, June 30, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

According to Anco Nahuel, one of the volunteers who helped organize the march and rally, the demands of the protestors were to abolish ICE, end family separation and reunite separated families, grant asylum, close internment camps and shut down for-profit prisons and detention centers. Nahuel said although many at the rally had different ideas of how immigration policy should be reformed, they agreed on the demands.

“We hope to direct this outrage to an end to this violent treatment to our undocumented friends, families and workers,” Nahuel said.

Trump signed an executive order on June 20 to end the separation of families at the border. The executive order maintains the “zero tolerance” policy and will still place illegal immigrants in detention centers, but it allows children to be detained with their parents.

Part of the justification for the separation of families at the border stemmed from a 1997 federal consent decree called the Flores Settlement. According to the settlement, children crossing the border cannot be detained for more than 20 days.

However, this settlement does not afford the same right to parents who might be traveling with the children. Because of this, many parents were detained to wait for prosecution while their children were separated from them.

Jacob Hibbard, a recent BYU graduate and former president of the BYU College Republicans Club also felt the separation of families was wrong. His solution to the problem would be detaining the families together or returning the families to their home country; either way, the family unit should be maintained.

Hibbard said there is a need for improvement in immigration policy, though his views on how those improvements should be made differed from those protesting on Saturday. Hibbard said we need to allocate more funding to ICE and border security but also to make reforms within the country.

“Congress has the power to determine the rules of who can be citizens and who can stay here and who can’t. When a state or a city defies that, they’re actually violating the Constitution and taking a power that has been given to the federal government and taking it for themselves,” Hibbard said.

Though Hibbard said border security should be increased, he made it clear he was not anti-immigration as a whole. He said he hoped for an immigration system that would make it easier for those without criminal backgrounds to legally enter the US.

“It’s important we do maintain our sovereignty that we do have control of our borders. If you don’t have control of your borders, you’re not really a country,” Hibbard said.

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