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Protesters voice opposition to immigrant family separation

June 1, 2018

Protesters gathered outside the Indianapolis office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana on Friday, joining a nationwide day of action in support of immigrants’ rights and against a Trump administration policy that separates children from their asylum-seeking parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Ashley Toruno, community engagement associate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, led a brief noonday gathering of about a dozen opponents of the policy they called unlawful. They vowed to push back against what they view as an attack on the rights of immigrants, focusing protests on federal authorities such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol and U.S. attorneys — authorities charged with carrying out the policy.

Toruno said the gathering and others like it across the country are part of a public pressure campaign that accompanies ACLU litigation seeking to end the recently announced practice. The campaign includes a petition drive and social-media organizing in opposition to the policy. Protesters Friday carried placards reading “Families Belong Together.”

“We’re going to keep pushing to end this family separation,” Toruno said after her brief remarks. “It’s not a law, it’s a policy, and policies can be changed.”

She said more than 1,300 children have been taken from their parents since last October and 658 in just two weeks in May. “To be clear – border enforcement practices under previous administrations were also very problematic. But family separation is a new low, and it’s unprecedented,” she said.

For Toruno, the issue is also personal. The daughter of Nicaraguan parents who were able to gain asylum in the United States, she was born in the U.S. and said her siblings could have been separated from her family had the policy been in place when her parents arrived some 25 years ago.

“As the daughter of a resilient immigrant mother who sought asylum with two of my siblings both under the age of 5 years old, I can assure you that the very act of fleeing imminent violence in your home country is enough trauma to be endured,” she said, speaking at the rally. “Separating families and placing more trauma on families is outright inhumane.

“That is why we are raising our voices against key actors who are carrying out Trump’s family separation order: ICE and U.S. attorneys,” Toruno said. “ICE apprehends and separates families while U.S. attorneys enforce the separation in legal proceedings. If enough of us make our voices heard — loudly — we’ll have a chance to stop Trump from tearing immigrant families apart in the first place.”

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