Armed with signs and emotion, about 40 demonstrators gathered outside the Pinetop Post Office last Saturday to speak out against the separation of parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The group in Pinetop joined protestors in cities and towns across the country for “Families Belong Together” demonstrations against President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policies that resulted in the separation of children and parents.
Pressure from the public and political figures on the right and left led the President on June 20 to sign an executive order ending family separation for people detained for crossing the border illegally, but not until after emotional images and videos of crying children being held in cage-like structures caused an outcry among the public, and even internationally.
According to the Washington Post, 2,000 children were separated from their families during a six-week period in April and May.
For Elizabeth Webb, a Lakeside woman who says “I’m not a Democrat,” the issue hit close to her heart. She said she wanted to attend a protest, but there wasn’t one close by. So she decided to organize one herself.
Using the “Families Belong Together” page on Moveon.org, Webb put together the demonstration held June 30. She didn’t know if anyone would come.
“I thought last night there would be five or 10 (participants),” she said.
About 40 people had gathered by 9 a.m., the start of the event, and more trickled in as the morning wore on. To start off the event, volunteers registered those who attended, and handed out tagboard and markers for those who needed to make a sign. Individuals took to the microphone to speak out about their concerns with current immigration policy. They chanted and waved their signs at passing cars to elicit honks of support.
Webb sat down after the speakers finished. Visibly tired and emotional, she said her health conditions limit her, but she felt compelled to speak out on this issue. She said she wanted the event to be non-partisan.
“I don’t think you have to be a Democrat to have a heart. It’s a human rights tragedy and it’s happening in our state,” she said.
“Silence equals complicity,” she added.
Debe Campbell, who was formerly the director of the Nexus Coalition for Drug Prevention, also spoke at the demonstration. She said that she had been visiting with migrants living in temporary shelters who are waiting in Nogales, Mexico seeking asylum.
“If you talk with these people and understand what they are doing, they’re only looking for safety … these people are trying to do it legally,” she said.
Campbell said she has been working to help the people from Guatemala and Mexico who are seeking asylum. They must wait for days in shelters and camps run by non-profit groups in Mexico, waiting for their turn to interview with immigration officials.
According to the Arizona Republic, about 150 families were seeking entry at the port of Nogales between May and June 22. There is nothing for them to do but wait for U.S. Immigration officials to process them, but the local community does not have the resources to support them. Campbell urged people to donate to the Kino Border Initiative for the relief of the families.