SAN DIEGO (KGTV)- More than 60 people showed up for the Day of Action rally in San Diego, just one of dozens held Friday across the nation, advocating for immigrant families separated from their children.
When Donald Trump became president, he started enforcing a zero tolerance policy. That was made clear in a speech by Attorney General Jeff Sessions May 7th.
I have put in place a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.
If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you.
If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.
If you make false statements to an immigration officer or file a fraudulent asylum claim, that’s a felony.
If you help others to do so, that’s a felony, too. You’re going to jail.
So if you’re going to come to this country, come here legally. Don’t come here illegally.
In order to carry out these important new enforcement policies, I have sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border. These are supervisory judges that don’t have existing caseloads and will be able to function full time on moving these cases. That will be about a 50 percent increase in the number of immigration judges who will be handling the asylum claims.
These actions are necessary. And they are made even more necessary by the massive increases in illegal crossings in recent months. This February saw 55 percent more border apprehensions than last February. This March saw triple the number from last March. April saw triple the number last April.
-Jeff Sessions, Attorney General
The Department of Health and Human Services says there are 700 cases, since October, related to this new policy. That means more than 700 children are separated from their parents, living in HHS shelters across the country.
"We've interviewed about a dozen moms and dads who've been separated from children going down to four-years-old," Bardis Vakili, Senior Attorney, San Diego ACLU, said. "What changed was prosecutions for misdemeanor crimes. Crimes that carry two week sentences, three week sentences are resulting in separations of families, with kindergartners being flown across the country, while their parents stay in custody here."
This outrages advocates for immigrant families.
"I don't believe we live in a country that believes this is acceptable," Lupe Lujan said.
Marely Ramirez says she feels for these families as she is an immigrant herself. She's also a member of Indivisible Downtown, and blames the current administration, "It's an outrage, an absolute outrage, it is not the voice of America, it is the voice of one individual."
Adding to the frustration, Vakili says there's no communication, "they're completely out of touch with their parents, they don't get appointed lawyers and if you're four and five and six-years-old you don't know how to tell somebody who's helping you, where your parents are."
"It's horribly horribly unaccebtable... I cannot imagine the fear a child goes through," Lujan said passionately. She described how close children are to their parents when they're that young, comparing them to gum, glued to their parent's leg.
The rally encouraged activists to create change by speaking with their representatives. Ramirez already spoke with Senator Dianne Feinstein. "We proposed a Family Unification Act," saying the act would keep families together during the legal process.