As many as 15,000 demonstrators took to the streets Saturday for Chicago’s “Families Belong Together” protest against the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy that has left more than 2,000 migrant children separated from their parents.
The protest in Chicago made up just one of more than 700 planned marches across the country as outrage continues against the policy of separating migrant children from their parents.
Demonstrators gathered in Daley Plaza carrying signs saying “abolish ICE” — referring to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the government organization responsible for deporting undocumented immigrants — and listening to speeches by organizers before the march began.
Despite an excessive heat warning from the National Weather Service and temperatures that felt like 110-115 degrees, the protest continued for hours. Demonstrators chanted slogans such as “Sí se puede,” “yes we can” and “this is what democracy looks like,” as they made their way to Chicago ICE headquarters at South Clark Street and Congress Parkway.
The family separations began earlier this year when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Department of Justice would prosecute all people caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. In addition to courts being flooded with thousands more immigration cases than under previous administrations, the policy resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents.
At least 66 of those children ended up in the care of the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance, the organization said.
An official at the Heartland Alliance declined to provide additional information about the children under their care.
Some demonstrators, such as 24-year-old Vanessa Perez, shared their own stories of immigration to the United States. Many, including Perez, said they couldn’t understand why Trump has insisted on cracking down on immigration.
“If someone came into my home and was like ‘I need help’ … my parents have always taught me to try to give anything you can give,” said Perez, who said she was brought to the United States illegally when she was a baby. “It’s sad that there’s people who can look at someone because of their skin color or because of their race or because of the language they speak and say ‘we don’t want them.'”
While Trump eventually rescinded the policy of separating families after widespread condemnation, Perez said the administration’s new plan to hold families in detention together is no better.
“It doesn’t make me feel any better,” Perez said. “All I can think of is those children in cages, and now those children and their siblings and their parents are going to be in cages. How is that any better?”
For other protesters such as 23-year-old Mansi Kathuria, this approach to immigration is nothing new.
“I think what’s happening at the border is a principle … that is very much in line with the way we’ve approached people of color for years and years,” Kathuria said. “Every person deported is a family separated.”
And because Trump has said his administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy won’t change because families will no longer be separated, both Perez and Kathuria said they plan to continue making their voices heard.