Hundreds of people gathered around the square on Saturday for a rally against the Trump Administration’s policies that have seen young children ripped apart from their families at the border.
Despite the heat and humidity, people from around the state participated in a national day of protest against what many consider one of the most inhumane and disgusting practices taking place in the country.
Chants to abolish ICE filled the air. Congressman Mark Pocan has proposed a Bill that would eliminate the agency within six months and provide Congressional oversight to what he called an escalating humanitarian crisis.
With images of mothers having their children ripped away from them and, in some cases, detained several states away, some are indeed questioning the need for ICE to continue.
But no one protesting on Saturday questioned the need to rally on behalf of the families in our midst.
Maurice Cheeks, a leader in the city of Madison and a prominent voice on the city council, stepped forward to deliver a thunderous speech during Saturday’s rally. Standing on the steps of the Capitol Building Cheeks called the Trump Administrations practices disgusting.
“This has been one of the most disgusting periods of time that I’ve seen under the Trump presidency,” Cheeks told the gathering. “Over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents. I have a twelve week old son at home. I have a two and a half year old daughter at home. I literally can’t sleep when I let my mind go to where those parents must be; afraid of what’s happening to their children, afraid that they’ll never see their children again.”
Communities across the country came together on Saturday for the rallies to end family separation, but the issue is far from simply a national news story. It is local as well.
In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker said the decision to separate children from parents is a federal issue and would not offer criticism of the policy. Instead, Governor Walker received praise and compliments from President Trump during the President’s June visit to Foxconn. And, during his speech to the masses in front of the state capital, Cheeks took aim at Senator Ron Johnson, who has stated that we need to disincentivize people from wanting to cross the border illegally.
Cheeks said that it is on Johnson, as the Chair of the Senate Committee for Homeland Security, to stand up and be a check on the Administration’s power.
“He should stand up for the dignity of children, for the dignity of humanity, but he’s unwilling. He stands back and says ‘No, I don’t have any comment on that,’” Cheeks said. “Everyone should have the opportunity to get ahead. Everyone should be able to live in a community where they feel safe and healthy and welcome. Madison is going to continue to be that type of community! We are going to keep showing up at events like this to make our voices heard and call on our Governor, on our Senator, on our President and we’re going to keep standing up for the rights of children. So at the local level, you are going to keep finding folks willing to keep standing up for you. We’re not going to give up. This is what hope looks like.”
Cheeks told Madison365 that the key to helping Madison stay the open, welcoming community it has been for immigrants is for everyone to have empathy for and love their neighbor. To have values that transcend the community.
While President Trump has signed an Executive Order to halt family separation at the border, no federal efforts have been made to reunify families that have already been separated or change the mentality behind the act of ripping families apart.
“We, the immigrants, are not the problem,” Alex Gillis, founder of Union De Trabajadores Immigrantes (Immigrant Workers Union) told the masses. “We are the victims. We need laws for the people, by the people. I say ‘Abolish ICE’. I say ‘Abolish Trump.’”