Recap: Keep Families Together Demonstration
Over 700 cities represented Saturday, June 30th, and Denton was no exception. From 10 a.m. to noon, several hundred of our fellow Dentonites came together for one purpose — solidarity with the families seeking asylum and being torn apart at the border. While it was part-protest of President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy which serves to criminally prosecute migrant people; it was also part-vigil to raise our country’s moral consciousness about ways we can do better as citizens. The “Keep Families Together” march was birthed to address these two codependent issues.
Family separations were taking place in April and May and garnered international scrutiny in mid-June when the Department of Homeland Security announced it has separated at least 2,000 children from their parents since the policy was announced. President Trump reversed his own policy on June 20 by signing an executive order to detain families together after they cross the border, rather than separating them. However it’s still unclear how the zero tolerance policy will be carried out, nor is it clear how the family reunification process will be implemented.
It was under these conditions over the course of two hours speakers representing every ideological background Denton has to offer - religious and political leaders, immigrant activist, and common Dentonites were all united in one common appeal. Speakers stood at the top of the steps leading up the courthouse and one-by-one spoke to the crowd on their disdain for the Trump administration and in particular the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or I.C.E., which serves as the most tangible arm of the administrations policies. Mostly due to its close proximity to Denton where several members of our community have been arrested and taken to I.C.E. facilities in Dallas. All of this places the agency at the center of a host of controversies regarding their practices many in the crowd consider openly hostile to migrants.
One speaker, Lesly Gutierrez, a member of the Stonewall Democrats and the Young Democrats of Denton County gave a memorable speech reading a poem to the marchers:
“‘Give us your tired, your hungry,’ I didn’t think that meant building a wall,” Gutierrez read. “I didn’t know the Bible said, ‘Love your neighbor for their building power.’” Ending her speech with a simple statement; “You can try to deport us, but you can never silence us.”
Other speakers included Father Tim Thompson of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and Reverend Jonathan Perry of Open Worship at First United Methodist Church which made a historically biblical connection comparing the Trump administration to Empire’s of the past who used their power to divide disenfranchised communities. Stating that it has always been churches role to always side with the downcast.
“His presence is with the vulnerable, the orphan and the sojourner[…] My God’s name is defender of the vulnerable, protector of the weak, guardian of the child, uplifter of the downcast, welcomer of the stranger, liberator of the oppresed. My God’s name is love…”
Which was welcomed with cheers in the crowd.
The most common appeal from all speakers was the duty to vote in the upcoming midterms in November. “The most important thing we can do to fix all of this is to vote,” said Anjelita Cadena, a University of North Texas finance professor who was elected in March as the chairwoman of the Denton County Democratic Party.
“I can only imagine what these babies feel, because they don’t know what the trucks mean — la migra,” Cadena said. “But we understand[…] We are all family. Felicidades a todos. Happiness to everybody.”
After the speeches they marched several times before stopping to chant. Some chants included:
“When immigrant communities are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back.” “Abolish ICE!” and “Zero tolerance for ‘zero tolerance!’”
Afterwards, there was a group representing ‘Denton Votes’ and ‘League of Women Voters’ who had a tent registering voters and helping to discuss ways to get involved with campaigns and other immigration related advocacy. Some were raising money for RAICES, a Texas nonprofit which stands for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, offers free and low cost legal services for immigrants and refugees (https://www.raicestexas.org/about/).
“This group is on the front lines at the border and outside these detention centers helping to reunite these families” according to Dr. Mariela Nuñez-Janes, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Texas who served as the last speaker of the march.
Photos by Zendra Morales.
Header design by Tori Falcon.