By Amy Lin
In response to the recent developments concerning immigration and border control, a “Families Belong Together” rally — one of many nationwide — was held in Mountain View on June 30. People of many different ages and racial backgrounds attended the rally to protest the separation of migrant families at the U.S. border.
Activist, founder of the Silicon Valley Link and rally host Ida Sylvester has been especially vocal since President Donald Trump took office. Sylvester has advocated for a variety of issues including human rights and health care.
“Now it’s about children [being separated from their families],” said Sylvester. “That was many, many steps too far. We had to do something.”
Dressed in white as an indication of unity, hundreds of people started gathering at the corner of El Camino Real and Castro Street around 7:00 p.m., carrying signs conveying a variety of messages, ranging from calls to keep families together to various comments on Trump’s competence. The group of protesters stretched around the corner, eliciting many supportive honks from passing cars. Several people were wrapped in space blankets, a foil-like material given to detained immigrants to keep themselves warm.
At 7:45 p.m., the crowd moved to City Hall, where several speakers gave speeches to unify the crowd including members of the Raging Grannies, an activist organization comprised of elderly women, as well as Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel. The Raging Grannies also sang several politically-oriented songs throughout the event. Many participants lit candles to honor the thousands of detained and separated families.
Many signs at the event featured text along the lines of “Trump’s heart is as cold as ICE.” These signs refer to the recent “Abolish ICE” movement, which aims to dissolve the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency in charge of immigrant affairs.
ICE has received criticism from progressives for inadequate health services, poor facilities and inhumane treatment of detained immigrants.
“You have U.S. immigration policy being implemented in a way that is tied into a lot of discrimination and a lot of inhumane treatment with ICE, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way,” said Andrew Skelton ’21, who could not be present at the rally but supports the anti-ICE movement. He cited the recent Ohio meat factory raid as a prime example of this discrimination.
Others are not as confident when it comes to abolishing a federal agency like ICE.
“There needs to be substantial reform,” said Lily Liu ’21, a student who immigrated from Beijing. “There needs to be pressure, as well as an effective advocative network.”
While she noted several flaws within ICE, including disturbing suicide rates, “there still needs to be law enforcement to maintain order.”
Duncan Lawrence, the executive director of Stanford’s Immigration Policy Lab conveyed the ways in which the immigration court system has room for improvement.
“Wait times in some courts now exceed 800 days, and asylum-seekers, including children, have no right to legal representation,” Lawrence wrote in an email to The Daily. “Reforms to improve immigration courts to create a fair and timely process would not only benefit immigrants, but will likely foster the integration of immigrants into U.S. communities as well.”
Many attendants of the rally were skeptical of Congress’s ability to produce legislation in a timely manner. But others, including Walter May ’21, believe that Congress may benefit from a more time-costly approach, explaining that he believes there is no point for the government to take immediate action if the action is not well-planned.
“I think it’s important for [congressional representatives] to sit down and listen to the actual concerns of undocumented immigrants and to actually analyze what’s happening,” May said. “I think they should take action, but I don’t think they’re ready to take action.”
But taking impactful action has been increasingly hard for Democrats in the current Republican-majority Congress. #SwingLeft was another theme featured on many signs at the rally, reflecting a general desire to fill more seats in the House with Democrats as we face midterm elections in November.
However, some at the rally noted that Democratic candidates need a slight change of attitude.
“I want Democrats to come in [based] on their merits and on the issues, and not saying ‘We’re gonna impeach Trump,’ because that’s not a plan; that’s not a governing strategy,” said an attendee at the Mountain View rally.
Contact Amy Lin at amyclin9 ‘at’ gmail.com.