More than 150 protesters gathered in the Jordan block in Ottawa for a topic that has gotten just about as heated as the temperatures were Saturday afternoon.
La Salle County Democrats chair Dani Brzozowski said the group gathered alongside 750 other groups throughout the country regarding the president’s policy of migrant children being separated from their parents.
President Donald Trump ended the separation policy last week but questions about subsequent procedures remain.
“The separation and detention policies that are in place that have been in place since the middle of spring are completely unacceptable,” Brzozowski said before the rally began. “We want to reunite families, families belong together.”
The group huddled in the shade and under small tents at first but rallied together in the harsh sun with signs and voices raised high when the rally began.
“No hate. No fear. Immigrants are welcome here,” was shouted while signs were raised that read “families belong together and “stop Trump baby prisons.”
Brzozowski said during the rally it was difficult for her to understand how the country could have such a policy where “we are taking babies and toddlers and we are jailing them. We are imprisoning children.”
“That’s outrageous and I think there is a lot of compassion here for our immigrant neighbors and I think there’s a lot of completely justified rage that this happened on our watch,” she added.
Brzozowski said some of the blame ultimately lies with the average voter to hold the administration accountable by reaching out to lawmakers and holding rallies to share their concerns.
Children detention centers spark issue
IVCC Sociology Professor Jared Olesen and Gabriela Ortiz were a few other speakers who shared their thoughts with the crowd.
Olesen said he wasn’t as focused on immigration as he believed it was a “ping pong ball” tossed back in forth in politics, but recent news about the children detention centers as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents shocked him into activism with the rest of the group. He added undocumented immigrants added to crime levels at a lower rate than the general population.
“The level of anger directed at undocumented immigrants should be shocking and yet it isn’t,” Olesen said. “As a sociologist, I’m convinced there’s more to it than the issue of legal status.”
Ortiz reminded the crowd if they don’t have Native American heritage in their family trees then their ancestors came to the country as immigrants.
A different perspective
The protest did not attract a wide number of dissenters, but Christine Chalkey was one in attendance who wanted to bring a different perspective.
She was handing out documents to protestors regarding the shrinkage of Medicaid benefits to those with developmental disorders like her son because the program was expanded to include children without legal residency.
Chalkey said to a Times reporter that she wasn't necessarily supporting separating children from parents in detention centers, but did believe more focus needs to be placed on ensuring legal residents receive benefits before those without legal residency do.
Dady wants focus on 'loving thy neighbor'
Democratic congressional candidate Sara Dady also attended the event and said as a Rockford immigration attorney she takes pride in welcoming immigrants to the country.
“You can be proud of your country and still appreciate other people’s cultures,” Dady said. “Those are not two mutually exclusive ideas especially for the original immigrant nation.”
She added common values instilled in children regarding “loving thy neighbor” should be upheld in adulthood as well.
The Rockford immigration attorney is running against U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, in the 16th District. Kinzinger was not in attendance but has stated in the past he is against separating children from their parents, believes undocumented children who have only known the U.S. to be home deserve the opportunity to be in the country legally and supports a border wall with Mexico for the nation’s safety.
Dady said instead of focusing on stopping drugs from coming across the border, instead focus on ending addiction inside the country.
She added the best way for voters to show the administration they’re unhappy with policies in place is to show up to vote.
Across Illinois, seven activist groups planned a rally Saturday in downtown Champaign. Rally organizer MoveOn.org also announced protests in Barrington, Downers Grove, Frankfort, Highland Park and Rockford.