Listening to phone recordings of separated migrant children speaking with their parents, Laura Alcazar thought of her own family.
“They’re just treating them so wrong,” she said through tears. “And when I hear the phone calls that they recorded I just hear my mom’s voice, I just imagine one of my brothers or sisters being in there, and no one wanting to help them, just because they’re a different color, they’re from a different country.”
Alcazar, a 20-year-old first generation Honduran immigrant who attends Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kan., held one side of an American flag tied to a Honduran flag, and her brothers held the opposite side.
“We’re just here being a voice for the children,” she said.
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Alcazar was one of an estimated 2,000 people who braved the upper 90s heat at the Families Belong Together rally in Penn Valley Park on Saturday.
Equipped with fans, bucket hats, water, umbrellas and signs, the attendees protested the separation of migrant children from their families and called for their reunification. Some also called for the termination of ICE and impeachment of President Donald Trump.
The Kansas City rally was one of more than 600 held across the country on Saturday, organized by the Families Belong Together coalition, which “opposes the inhumane policies of the Trump administration, Border Patrol, and I.C.E. and calls for immediate reform.”
More than 2,300 children have been separated from their families at the Mexico-U.S. border since May as part of Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy. Nine of these children were placed in The Villages, a Topeka nonprofit.
On June 20, Trump issued an executive order that stopped the separation of families at the border. But that was not enough for today’s protesters.
Cassandra Woolworth, the organizer of the Kansas City rally, said she will not stop rallying “until every child is reunited and out of prison.”
“And I am calling it prison,” she said. “It’s not they’re locked up, it’s not jail, it is prison with your family. We’re doing internment camps. That’s bad.”
The protesters, who ranged in age and race, shouted the phrases “Defund ICE,” “Free the children,” and “Yes we can.” They yelled in English and Spanish. A big push was made to register voters, and people at the rally walked around with clipboards helping those unregistered to sign up.
“The next time you vote I want you to vote for love,” said the Rev. Randy Fikki from Unity Southeast Church, a speaker at the event.
“If we center in on love and we know that we love ourselves, we know that we love our neighbors regardless of what country of origin they come from, regardless of what border they came through, regardless of what they’re leaving or regardless of what they are trying to achieve, we must look at it first with love,” he said.
Ten-year-old Eleni Rousis said when she heard migrant children were separated from their parents she thought it was terrible, that it should be stopped, and “that we should be grateful for what we have.”
Another crowd-arousing speaker was Dr. Socorro Herrera, a professor from Kansas State University’s College of Education, who crossed the border illegally as a child with her mother and brother to be reunited with her father.
“Today, I’m paralyzed and I am in pain. Because what our children are going through at the border doesn’t even begin to touch what I went through.... It is inconceivable that in this country we would hurt people,” she said.
“I challenge you as I continue to challenge myself to do something beyond today. Translate, drive somebody, go into schools, become involved in school boards.”
The rally raised money that will go to the organization Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation, who will use the money to support asylum-seeking migrant families affected by detainment and deportation orders.