BROWNSVILLE — Last week, when she saw the viral photograph of an immigrant toddler sobbing as her mother was searched at the border, Rancho Viejo resident Leticia Rodriguez instantly thought of her grandchildren in Virginia.
A similar thought occurred to Narce Uribe Scott as she listened to an audio recording of immigrant children crying in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility. “I have eight grandchildren,” she said. “When I heard that, I just pictured them in that situation. And I cried, too. Those could be our kids.”
On Thursday, Rodriguez and Uribe Scott joined more than 1,000 other demonstrators from across Texas in a park near the federal courthouse in Brownsville to protest the separation of undocumented children from their parents at the border. Although President Donald Trump issued an executive order last week calling for detained families to be kept together, the vast majority of the more than 2,000 children who were separated under his administration’s “zero tolerance” policy have yet to be reunited with their parents.
At the end of the rally, organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, hundreds of demonstrators marched to the steps of the Brownsville courthouse, where migrant parents apprehended under “zero tolerance” have been prosecuted.
Protesters came to the rally on buses from Laredo, San Antonio, Austin and Houston, according to Imelda Mejia, communications coordinator for the ACLU’s Texas branch. Others flew into Texas from states as distant as Minnesota and Michigan.
The Texas Tribune’s reporting on the Families Divided project is supported by the Pulitzer Center, which will also help bring discussions on this important topic to schools and universities in Texas and across the United States through its K-12 and Campus Consortium networks.
Zaira Garcia, the daughter of two undocumented immigrants, came down from Austin to protest outside the courthouse. “All of this is so personal,” said Garcia, who works as an organizer for the advocacy group FWD.US. “It’s been traumatic, even as a bystander. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the children and parents.”
Since Trump’s executive order last week, the government appears to have backed away from the “zero tolerance” policy, in which immigration officials refer all unlawful border crossings for prosecution. And on Tuesday, in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, a federal judge in California issued an injunction compelling the government to quickly reunite separated children with their parents. The injunction calls for children under the age of 5 to be reunited with their parents within two weeks and for older children to be reunited within 30 days.
Despite those victories, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, who came to Brownsville for the rally, urged immigration activists to continue the fight.
“The thing we’ve been doing that’s enabled us to make progress is organizing, protesting, causing good trouble. That’s what we have to continue to do. We can’t let up,” Perez said in an interview. “That’s why I’m here losing some weight in this 100-degree weather. If it’s 200 degrees, I’ll stay here. If it’s hot for us, imagine what it’s like for these young children who haven’t seen their parents.”