The battle of over separating immigrant children from their parents may be over but Minnesota activists and others say the bigger fight over proposed immigration reforms and policies is still on.
President Donald Trump caught some activists and protesters off guard when he reversed himself Wednesday, signing an executive order that halts removing children from their parents who are detained for illegally crossing into the United States.
Margaret McGuirk, a Dominican nun on the pastoral staff at Incarnation Catholic Church in Minneapolis, rejoiced Wednesday when she learned Trump signed the executive order but said the order doesn’t erase her concerns over the larger immigration issues facing the country.
“The children were being used as pawns to push Democrats to vote on bills that were detrimental to just immigration reform,” said McGuirk, who spent time last year on the U.S./Mexico border helping families seeking asylum.
Although children will no longer be pulled from their parents arms when they cross the border, she and others are incensed that the Trump administration is criminally prosecuting asylum seekers.
“Now they’re just going to lock up children with their parents,” McGuirk said. Crossing the border is a misdemeanor, not a felony.
She and others worry that these families now will be kept in detention centers longer while their asylum cases are pending. Instead of locking them up, these families’ whereabouts could be monitored electronically while refugee organizations care for them, she said.
Now many of these families could remain locked up for months, said John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.
“The reality is that this administration has made the conscious decision to introduce something that no president prior to him has done and that is to prosecute criminally every single individual who reaches the southern border,” Keller said.
Despite Trump’s executive order Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy was still a “nasty, un-American policy.”
In Duluth, where the President was speaking Wednesday night, Ellison pointed to an “impressive” crowd of protesters.
“We need to mobilize to make the change,” he said.
Earlier in the day, protesters took the streets in St. Paul just as news of the executive order broke. About 70 women, men and children marched from the Indigenous Roots Cultural Arts Center on St. Paul’s East Side to St. Paul City Hall downtown carrying hand-made signs with phrases like “Families have no borders” and “Protect our babies.”
“Obviously, we’re just absolutely appalled that our leaders would institute these kinds of policies,” said south Minneapolis resident Andre Montoya-Barthelemy, who marched with his wife, Daniela, and their two young children. “It’s still incredibly important to be out here.”
At City Hall, City Council members read a resolution calling for an end to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. Council Member Samantha Henningson introduced an amendment, in light of the executive order, urging the administration to reunite families that had been separated.
“We have to stay engaged, because this fight isn’t over,” said Council President Amy Brendmoen. “But this council will stand with you until it is.”