As families across the United States celebrated Father's Day on Sunday, immigrants and advocates held a vigil at the Ursula Border Patrol Processing Center in South McAllen, Texas to express support for children who were torn from their asylum-seeking parents at the Southern border and are now being held in the facility.
Imagine this: thousands of children are sitting in detention centers scared to death.
That’s what happening right this second. We need #JusticeOnFathersDay because #FamiliesBelongTogether. pic.twitter.com/49ya2dFOec
— People's Action (@PplsAction) June 17, 2018
In the just six weeks since President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions imposed a "cruel" so-called zero-tolerance policy that enables federal immigration agents to separate families at the border—to prosecute the parents and detain the children—Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records recently obtained by journalists show that nearly 2,000 children have been taken into custody.
"We are witnessing a whole new level of attack on migrant families," said People's Action director George Goehl, who attended the vigil in Texas. "There is no question the race and ethnicity of those who are seeking asylum is the determining factor in the crisis that Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump have manufactured. Our country's history is marked by moments where we stood down racism and hatred and moments where we didn't. As a nation, let's get it right this time."
Vigil attendees in Texas were far from the only people who marked Father's Day with calls for an immediate end to the family separation policy. Members New York City advocacy groups demonstrated outside the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey to denounce the Trump administration's treatment of migrant families.
#newsanctuarycoalition at the Elizabeth Detention Center in NJ on this #fathersday We stand with all families who have been torn apart by our cruel #immigration system. You are not alone. We fight with you. We stand next to you. #keepfamiliestogether #nodetention #nodeportation pic.twitter.com/ZpStr9utLr
— New Sanctuary NYC (@NewSanctuaryNYC) June 17, 2018
Today on #FathersDay our hearts bleed for the thousands of children ripped from their parents arms at the hands of our government. We are here to demand an end to #FamilySeparation at our borders + demand action from our lawmakers to #KeepFamiliesTogether. The world is watching. pic.twitter.com/oLSAkKkP1U
— New York Immigration Coalition (@thenyic) June 17, 2018
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Several Democratic members of Congress fought to meet with fathers at the facility in New Jersey.
ICE tried to stop us @RepJerryNadler @RepEspaillat @FrankPallone @RepSires @BillPascrell @RepMaloney from exposing unjust Trump/Republican family separation policy. We persisted. They relented. Now we take the fight back to Washington! pic.twitter.com/nNF5kj672u
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) June 17, 2018
Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), an outspoken critic of the policy who was barred from entering a detention facility in Brownville, Texas earlier this month, tweeted on his way to Texas Sunday, "Ripping children away from parents is cruel."
This #FathersDay, I’m thinking of when my kids were young & how impossibly awful the idea of losing them would have been. Ripping children away from parents is cruel. We need a #FathersDayOfAction to #KeepFamiliesTogether – & that’s why I’m headed back to the TX border right now. pic.twitter.com/GPcENnTTwQ
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) June 17, 2018
"Two thousand children forcibly separated from their parents in our name and we dare to celebrate Father's Day?" Steven Singer, a father and teacher, wrote in an op-ed for Common Dreams on Sunday. "A country that doesn't respect the rights of parents—even if those parents aren't documented U.S. citizens—has no right to pretend it values fatherhood or motherhood."
After reflecting on a card from his 9-year-old daughter and how white men overwhelming shape U.S. policy, Singer concluded: "This Father's Day, we need to do more than accept a congratulatory pat on the back. We need to accept our responsibility for the status quo. If we don't like the way things are, we need to commit ourselves to doing something about it."
"Call and/or write your senators and representatives about the policy of separating undocumented parents and children," he urged fellow fathers. "We're not just fathers on Father's Day. We're fathers all year long. Let's do something more to deserve it."