The ‘Families Belong Together Rally’ in Birmingham was held Saturday afternoon, June 23, 2018, in historic Kelly Ingram Park, where most of the Civil Rights demonstrations were staged in the 1960’s. The rally attracted over 2000 people and was organized to protest President Trump’s immigration policies separating and detaining families seeking asylum on our southern border.
The Birmingham rally was one of 700 held nationwide to show the widespread scope and depth of opposition to the President’s unjust immigration policies. Larger rallies were held throughout the day in major cities. Several other rallies were held in Alabama as well on Saturday.
The Birmingham rally was sponsored by Move-on, Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA), Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ), Adelante Worker Center, Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Children’s Policy Council of Alabama and other groups.
Carlos Aleman, Deputy Director of HICA, moderated the program and said, “We must use our voices and our votes to counteract the inhumane immigration policies of the Trump Administration on our borders but also here in Alabama. This past week, Hispanic workers in Alabaster were detained on their way to work.”
Fernanda Herra, a DACA recipient, spoke for AICJ saying,
“There are more than 2000 lost children, separated from their parents. There is no plan to re-unite these children with their families. We must make a change and have a better immigration system. We need a fair system of immigration for all colors, faiths and wealth status of people wanting to come to this country.”
Dr. Morissa Ladinsky, a pediatrician with UAB Children’s Hospital, said, “ As a doctor serving children, I must speak out against these policies which separate children from their parents. These policies will have adverse effects lasting beyond childhood. Seeking asylum is not a crime but inducing toxic fears of deportation seems criminal.”
“As a pediatrician and one of 250,000 members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are several things, we must say: 1. All of our children need to be united with their parents; 2. Families need to heal in a community based setting not a detention center; and 3. it costs $36 a day to provide lawyers to assist asylum seekers in a community setting and $360/day to keep them in detention, so it is more economical and beneficial to keep families together in a humane community setting,” said Dr. Ladinsky.
Ali Massoud of Birmingham CAIR spoke out against the Muslim travel ban that Trump is imposing on several mid-eastern Muslim countries. “This is a Muslim ban, this is a ban against people of a specific religious faith. We must resist this Administration with our ballots, bodies and beliefs. We all of us – Muslims, people of color, immigrants, LBGTQ – must remain visible and fighting to counter Trump.”
Massoud concluded with a verse from the Koran, “ When I have fear, I do not have God, and when I have God, I do not have fear,.”
One man in the crowd held a sign that said, “Keep the kids – Deport the racists! “
Carlos Ramos of the ‘Shut-down Etowah Detention Center’ Organization testified that his group was working to close the notorious detention center in Etowah County, near Gadsden, which is a privately run center to house undocumented immigrants.
Ramos said the food at the center is so bad, many of the detainees are starving and lack proper nutrition and health care causing some of the inmates to die. Ramos called for people of good will from all around the state to come to Etowah County and help close down the detention center.
Aleman closed the program with a rousing call for people to register to vote and to vote on July 17 in the runoff and again on November 6, 2018 in the General Election to bring changes to Alabama and Washington, D. C.