‘Whose Kids? Our Kids!’: Rogers Park Residents Protest Family Separation

Mary Norkol | The PhoenixAround 450 protestors protested family separation practices in Rogers Park Saturday.

Amid nationwide criticism against family separation under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” illegal immigration policy, Rogers Park residents joined the movement Saturday afternoon in a neighborhood protest against the practice.

Organizers said around 450 people gathered at the Morse CTA Red Line station and marched to Touhy Park, where speakers addressed the crowd. The protest was organized by local activists Gerardo Marciano and Rachel Cohen and supported by Protect RP and Network 49, two community-led organizations in the Rogers Park neighborhood.

President Trump has faced fierce opposition since the policy — which has resulted in thousands of children being held without their parents  — was announced. Trump signed an executive order ending family separation Thursday, but the more than 2,300 children who have already been separated won’t immediately be reunited with their parents, the New York Times reported.

Many activists,  including those in Rogers Park, remain vocal.

“Trump may have signed an executive order, but make no mistake, this is far from over,” Natalia Vera, a Network 49 organizer, said while addressing the crowd.

Marissa Graciosa, who was with Protect RP, said the neighborhood has a unique connection to immigrant issues because of the large population of immigrants and refugees who live there.

“Rogers Park is like this … We stand as one community,” Graciosa said. “We have so many immigrants and refugees that we can’t help but take it personally. Everyone lives here and everyone belongs here.”

Going forward, Graciosa said Protect RP will take part in the protest downtown Chicago next Saturday and continue to provide resources to residents about what to do if they are stopped by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The crowd marched west on Morse Ave. and north on Clark Street chanting phrases such as “Whose kids? Our kids!” and “No hate, no fear. Immigrants are welcome here.” Some drivers in passing cars honked their horns in support and families on the street waved and clapped as the crowd passed by.

Representatives from Protect RP and Network 49 spoke to the crowd at Touhy Park. Much like recent national protests such as the Women’s March and the March For Our Lives, one sentiment echoed throughout their speeches: The importance of voting in the November midterm elections.

Rogers Park resident Theresa Kukemis said immigration is an issue everyone should care about.

“Like [the speakers] said, everybody’s immigrants,” Kukemis said.

Kukemis said she often works with patients from Mexico at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital and has first-hand experience with some fears immigrants may have.

“You shouldn’t be so afraid because you’re an immigrant that you don’t come to the hospital and get your children treated,” she said.

Ethan Ethos, a Rogers Park resident and member of several local activist groups, said residents should understand the importance of local organizing about national issues.

“Don’t think a small group of dedicated people can’t change the world — it’s the only thing that ever has,” Ethos told the crowd.

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly said the protest was organized by Network 49 and Protect RP. It was actually organized by two local activists. An updated attribution was also added to Natalia Vera’s quote.

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