Protestors show solidarity with separated immigrant families

Isabel Ingram holds a sign reading “hate has no home here” at the Families Belong Together rally in Des Moines in front of the Capital Building June 30. 

Talon Delaney

Hundreds of people congregated outside the Iowa Capitol building on Saturday to protest the Trump Administration’s immigration policies. Protestors demonstrated on behalf of the thousands of undocumented children indefinitely separated from their parents at the border.

Activists braved the summer heat with signs held high and listened to politicians, students and community activists speak about the trials of immigrant families and the value of keeping families together.

One such activist was 89-year-old Mary Campos. She recounted her life experiences as the child of migrant workers, the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and a social activist with more than 20 years of experience.

“Immigration founded this country,” Campos said. “The only people that own this country are the Native Americans. We’re all immigrants in this land.”

Campos has worked in civil rights groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission for more than 20 years. In that time, Campos worked with undocumented immigrants for, helping them establish residency and learn English.

“When those people are educated, they’re worth more than money can buy,” Campos said. “They can help this country. Why send them away?”

Campos serves on a co-chair of the Iowa Black and Brown Forum. She said anti-immigrant legislation is much older than the Trump presidency, and any substantial change can only come from large social movements.

“This congress isn’t the first one to hurt immigrants,” Campos said. “It’s been a problem for a long time. We need everyone to show up to the polls. Everyone on this lawn has to vote, and take two people with them.”

Many protestors demonstrated their solidarity with the undocumented children taken from their families, but 18-year-old Carlos Celaya reminded attending activists that all immigrants face challenges under U.S. immigration policies.

“I’m here in part to support my parents,” Celaya said. “It’s about love today, we just want people to know that we’re with them.”

Both of Celaya’s parents are undocumented workers, and everyday he endures the fear that his family could be taken from him at any moment.

“It’s constant anxiety,” Celaya said. “I may come home and it’s dark, and I don’t know if they’re gone for good. I’m constantly calling them and texting them, making sure they got to work safe, stuff like that.”

Celaya and other teenage activists brandished signs on the Capitol lawn and encouraged people to work for change, despite any feelings of helplessness. They then led the protesters in a chant: “Si se puede! Si se puede!” a phrase popularized by the United Farm Workers of America.

In English, this phrase translates to “Yes you can,” or “Yes, it can be done!”

Politicians also took up the megaphone to bring their message to the Capitol. Ako Abdul-Samad serves as a representative for Iowa House District 35, and he received cheers from activists when he called for the abolishment of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

“I’m one of the politicians that will stand with you, that wants to disband ICE,” Abdul-Samad said. “That can’t be done unless we work together. This administration does its best to divide us, but we will not be put against each other.”

Like many of the protestors, Abdul-Samad found the treatment of immigrant children by ICE to be especially heinous, and called it his duty to act on behalf of voiceless children.

“We must fight together for human rights, for families and for children,” he said. “We as a community will say to the Capitol, ‘We are here and we will not give up.’”

Later on, Abdul-Samad spoke about the polarized political climate, and how politicians ought to change it for the better.

“We don’t have the luxury to not change things,” Abdul-Samad said. “A lot of people liked Trump, because they thought he was going to change things. Really, he just brought about cosmetic changes, and people wanted it because nobody was offering systemic change on the other side.”

The protest featured many immigrant demonstrators. Marie Quanbech came to the U.S. from Norway in 1967 to attend Luther College, and found recent actions taken in the name of border security disturbing.

“What happened to America?” Quanbech asked. “What happened to that shining beacon on the hill? Tearing apart families, this is not what we’re supposed to do.”

With her she had a sign that read “Compassion” on top and “End the cruelty” beneath it. She also carried a thin, reflective thermal blanket. The same kind she claims children are given at immigrant camps near the border.

“I brought this with me to show the people what they can’t see,” Quanbech said. “These children are experiencing great fear. They’re afraid of never seeing their parents again.”

Signs were common throughout the demonstration, and some people took it a step further. Iowa native Robert Trembly attended the protest dressed as Mr. Monopoly in a show of satire on modern money-influenced politics.

“We’re being very rapidly bought by corporations,” Trembly said. “The swooning height of Wall Street tells us how great everything is. While we’re focusing on the Trump hysteria, they’re taking control. We just saw the most regressive tax plan I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been around since FDR.”

Trembly also took issue with the mainstream media, which he argues is concerned more with occupying the minds of citizens instead of providing quality news. According to Trembly, they do this by “massaging the brain” to occupy “mindspace,” creating consumers of a product and not informed citizens.

“The message isn’t as important as the massage, the fight for mindspace,” Trembly said.

He correlated this media system to the rise of Donald Trump.

“Trump is a genius at manipulating the media,” Trembly said.