BROWNSVILLE, Texas — San Marcos students and activists protested family separation policies June 28 at an American Civil Liberties Union-hosted rally at a courthouse hearing immigration cases.
The Families Belong Together Rally at the Border in Brownsville, Texas, came on the heels of ICE’s enforcement of controversial policies allowing the separation of migrant children and parents upon detention. As of June 23, the Department of Homeland Security had over 2,000 separated minors in their care, according to a DHS press release. The ACLU sued the federal government over the forced separation of asylum-seeking parents and children, with a judge ordering the government to reunite children under 5-years-old with their parents by July 10. As the deadline neared, the Trump administration began asking for an extension, as some families couldn’t be properly matched.
With its newfound court victory in hand, the ACLU hosted 16 buses that shuttled over 1,000 people to the protest from Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Laredo to Southern Pacific Linear Park in Brownsville to continue the #FamiliesBelongTogether campaign. Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas said the victory in court is a major win, but it doesn’t signal the end.
“We are not going to stop until every parent is reunited with their child,” Burke said to protestors before they marched to the steps of the Reynaldo G. Garza and Filemon B. Vela Courthouse, where detainees faced swift, mass sentencing.
Eleven Texas State students with members from Student Government, Student Community of Progressive Empowerment and Lambda of Texas State, came to protest with the ACLU. Of those in attendance, Student Government Sen. Alex Molina said there was no doubt in his mind that he would be at the protest, mainly because of his family’s history.
“I come from a family of immigrants,” Molina said. “My mom came here when she was 16-years-old, escaping a civil war in El Salvador. She was a child not knowing what to expect in a whole new country by herself. This is the very least that we could do as a society: letting everyone know what’s going on here and trying to make a difference as much as we can.”
Burke was accompanied on the park’s stage by a host of guest speakers, including Jay Ellis from HBO’s Insecure and representatives from the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network and La Union del Pueblo Entero, and more.
“Every call or letter to your representative matters,” Ellis said. “I need you to tell people what you’ve seen. Tell them the government has to stop this and put these families back together.”
As protestors approached the courthouse following the conclusion of speakers, the Department of Homeland Security bolstered their presence, trying to create a greater sense of order in the march to prevent the need for arrests for impeding a public walkway. No arrests were made at the rally.
Less than 50 protestors were able to enter the courthouse before it reached capacity, resulting in the protest’s occupation of the street in front of the courthouse and the park again. After half an hour, the crowd began to dwindle in size as the ACLU’s buses began to call for passengers.
Though hours from the protest and courthouse, Hays County has faced Immigration and Customs Enforcement detentions as well. As a part of the result, Mano Amiga, a San Marcos-based activist group centered on public policy issues, has called for the abolition of ICE.
“Mano Amiga doesn’t only believe that families should be reunited but that no one should be detained,” Jordan Buckley, co-founder of Mano Amiga, said. “We believe in the immediate abolition of ICE, which has proven itself as a terroristic paramilitary outfit that must be stopped. Mano Amiga has witnessed repeatedly that people are being separated from their families in Hays County because of traffic infractions.”
Ruben Becerra, Hays County Judge candidate, said he agreed with Mano Amiga and the protesters’ call for ICE’s abolition, but his position doesn’t solely rely on the fact that he is an immigrant himself. Some of the key relevant points of Becerra’s campaign are his quest to end discretionary arrests, educate those pulled over on their rights, and create a detailed process involving ICE agents thoroughly recording and reporting all taxpayer-funded activities.
“I loved the chant to dissolve ICE,” Becerra said. “I’m from here; these are my people. I was born a stone’s throw from where the protest took place. I have loved ones who are suffering.”
Victor Rodriguez, Evelin Garcia and Christopher Green contributed to this story.