Protestors: End Family Separation At Border

Protestors gather in front of Toms River Township Hall calling for an end to the separation of children from their parents in the case of immigrants accused of illegally entering the country. Protests took place across the country during the weekend calling for an end to this program. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

TOMS RIVER – Area residents came out for two separate protests in the township to show their discontent for a policy that has separated close to 3,000 children from their parents regarding incidents of immigration processing at the border of Mexico.

Between October 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018, around 2,700 children were separated from their parents. Of that total around 1,995 of them were separated from April 18 to May 31.

Critics of President Donald Trump’s administration have strongly declared that the family separation policy is wrong and needless. Articles depict children crying themselves to sleep because they don’t know where their parents are.

Supporters of the policy state that there is no official policy saying every family entering the U.S. without papers has to be separated. There is, they say, a policy that all adults caught crossing into the U.S. illegally are to be criminally prosecuted – and when that happens to a parent, separation takes place.

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Typically, people apprehended crossing into the US are held in immigration detention centers and sent before an immigration judge to see if they will be deported as unauthorized immigrants.

Those who have been referred for criminal prosecution get sent to a federal jail and are presented to a federal judge within a few weeks’ time to determine if they’ll get prison time. This is when the separation happens as parents are not allowed to be kept with their children in a federal jail facility.

Robyn Gedrich, Brick, holds up a sign of protest during one of two protests held recently in Toms River. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Stacey H. Wolfe, an attorney from Beachwood, coordinated one of the rallies. She said “protests are being held all over the country in front of congressional offices to send out a message. We presented an open letter to Congressman MacArthur.”

Wolfe represents Lawyer Moms of America and her event drew around 30 people carrying signs who at times broke out in song to oppose the current system of family separation at the border.

“We are Lawyer Moms of America, representing more than 15,000 lawyer moms and our allies across the country. We formed this group because we cannot abide the horror of migrant children being forcibly removed from their parents by the Department of Justice. We were called to action as citizens and as parents. We are lawyers who have sworn to defend the Constitution. We are intentionally nonpartisan,” the open letter states.

“On June 19, Lawyer Moms of America released an initial open letter to Members of Congress calling for an end to the abhorrent practice of forcibly separating migrant children from their parents. A day later, President Trump signed an Executive Order purporting to end family separation, a policy he previously claimed to have no authority to address,” the letter added.

Wolfe noted in the letter that “we are not fooled by the Executive Order. It inexplicably ignores the plight of more than 2,300 migrant children who remain separated from their families. It makes no plan to reunite them with their parents.”

About 200 people participated. (Photo courtesy Rich Wieland)

Wolfe and Brick resident Robyn Gedrich, who also coordinated a similar rally in the township during the weekend, said that the protests were designed to generate advocacy efforts and to get residents to write their congress member and officials about the issue.

“We’re here to speak out and get the message out that this is wrong,” Gedrich said. “This is a nation-wide event.”

The open letter calls for Congress to act now to end the system by passing legislation which requires the Department of Health and Human Services to take immediate, ceaseless and exhaustive efforts to reunite each and every one of the approximately 2,345 children who have been separated from their parents.

It also calls for the Department of Justice to “stop the policy of detaining migrant asylum seekers for the petty offense of improper entry, which leads to the separation and detention of migrant children.”

Not all protestors present for the rallies agreed with ending the policy currently in place. During one rally a man was seen with a sign that drew criticism by the other protestors. His sign read “Vets Before Wets,” referring to a racial slur. Another man wearing a red hat and a T-Shirt declaring support of the president, questioned some of the protestors’ reasoning for opposing the current system.

Rich Wieland of Toms River with his daughter Laurie Burckhardt and grandson Spencer Burckhardt. (Photo courtesy Rich Wieland)

Congressman Tom MacArthur (R-3rd) has a congressional office based in the Toms River Town Hall. On June 27 he issued a statement after the House failed to pass the Border Security and Immigration Act. “It is long past time to fix our immigration system. This bill was not perfect, but I voted for it because it increased border security and offered Dreamers a legal path forward without letting them jump the line and would have put a stop to the separation of families at our borders.”

MacArthur also stated in a press release that “this is a failure of both Democrats and Republicans to come together to address a critical issue facing our nation. The American people sent us to Washington to get results, not to kick the can down the road. While I am disappointed, I will not be deterred by this, and will continue to work to see comprehensive immigration reform pass in this Congress.”

MacArthur previously said that “I am also very mindful of the tragedy at our southern border. The separation of children from their fathers and mothers must stop immediately.”