On Saturday Afternoon,more than a hundred people wearing white and orange marched to the proposed site of a holding facility intended for undocumented children who have been separated from their families.
Protesters gathered at Settegast Park at 2 p.m. and walked over to a warehouse at 419 Emancipation Ave., a space that could become a detention center for the controversial Austin-based nonprofit Southwest Keys. Protestors of all ages marched half a mile in the scorching heat while holding up signs saying “Abolish ICE” and “Reunite Families Now." Standing outside the building, everyone dripping with sweat, the crowd continued chanting. "Liberation not deportation," they cried.
Texas State Senator Sylvia R. Garcia partnered with other activist organizations including FIEL Houston, United We Dream, Houston Women's March, and Indivisible Houston to organize the march as part of the nationwide Families Belong Together campaign.
This is the second “Families Belong Together” march seen in Houston this year. The first one was held last month, alongside similar marches that occurred across the country. The Houston organizers decided to hold another march this weekend to keep the issue in the public consciousness.
This past Thursday was the deadline to reunite the thousands of families separated; however, according to the Texas Tribune, the federal government has only brought together two-thirds of those separated because the parents were either already deported, illegible, or their whereabouts are unknown. In other words, while this issue may not be dominating headlines the way it has been for the past month, that doesn’t mean it has actually been resolved, Garcia noted.
“There are children who are waiting to be reunited and probably never will because their parents have probably been deported,” Garcia, who is running for U.S. Congressman Gene Green’s seat this November, said. “Really [the march] is meant to keep the issue on the forefront because so many people think that just because Trump said he did away with his policy that it’s all over, but it is not. It didn’t do away with the Zero Tolerance Policy that is still in place. There are children that are still being separated and we’re just here to make sure that we don’t forget the children.”
The vacant warehouse on 419 Emancipation Ave. used to house homeless people and those displaced by Hurricane Harvey. According to the Houston Chronicle, a lease was signed to make that location a facility to hold up to 240 children between the ages of 0 to 17. Houston City Council Member Robert Gallegos said he and Mayor Sylvester Turner do not want this facility in their districts, but it's unclear how the city will be able to avoid issuing the permits needed to open such a center, despite the official reluctance to have this thing here.
Hence, the protest. Once everyone had arrived and clumped together outside the warehouse, Victor Esquivel, of United We Dream, spoke to the protesters, reminding them how immigrants have been treated for years, and how the government approach to immigrants has become even more aggressive first under the Obama administration and now under the Trump administration. “We must stand with one another and keep on fighting,” he told the crowd, who applauded and whooped their approval of this, finding the energy even as the sun beat down from overhead.
Laura Wed, a mother herself, participated in the march because she’s been haunted by how awful this must be for the families who have been split up, mindful of the hundreds that have not been reunited yet, and that, some reports say, may never be brought back together again. “I keep thinking about how the mothers don’t see their children," she said, "and how the children sleep without their parent and they must wake up being scared and alone.”