By Jose Ivan Cazares
LOS ANGELES — Thousands of demonstrators were joined by celebrities and politicians in front of Los Angeles City Hall June 30 to protest the separation of immigrant families at the southern border and demand their official reunification.
Among the celebrities in attendance were singer John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen, Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez and rapper Taboo.
Politicians who spoke included Mayor Eric Garcetti, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, who called for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
“They dared me to say impeach him,” said Waters, who has been exchanging words with Trump in the media throughout most of his presidency. “Today I say impeach ‘45!’” Trump is the nation’s 45th president.
Waters didn’t stop there.
“How dare you take the babies from mothers’ arms?” she asked of the Trump administration. “How dare you take the children and send them all across the country into so-called detention centers. You are putting them in cages; you are putting them in jails, and you think we’re going to let you get away with that? I don’t think so!”
“If you are pro-family, you cannot separate families,” Garcetti said. “We’ve got a message for the White House: We care, and so should you.”
The mayor’s speech was followed by remarks by Teigen, and then a performance of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” and a new song, titled “Preach,” by her husband, Legend.
“This is a reflection moment,” Sen. Harris said. “This is a moment in time that is requiring us to look in a mirror and ask a question, and that question is ‘Who are we?’ I believe the answer is ‘We are better than this.’”
The mass of people chanted “You are not alone” in Spanish and raised their hands to show peace symbols once they made their way to the Metropolitan Detention Center, where immigrants are held and processed before court proceedings.
“You can see them from the windows at the detention center staring down at you,” said Emiliana Guereca, executive director and founder of the Women’s March LA Foundation. “It’s important for them to see that there are people fighting for them, that they haven’t been forgotten.”
The demonstration remained peaceful in Los Angeles and there were no arrests. However, demonstrators continue to assemble in protest. On July 2, several were arrested for unlawful assembly in front of the Metropolitan Detention Center including L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin.
The effects of Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has angered many of the protesters and brought the debate over immigration reform to the forefront of political discussions.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has announced his intention to sue the Trump administration on humanitarian grounds. Seventeen other state attorneys general have announced they will join the suit.
“Child internment camps in American … the Trump administration has hit a new low,” Becerra said. “President Trump’s indifference towards the human rights of the children and parents who have been ripped away from one another is chilling.”
Trump responded to the public outcry against his policies by signing an executive order June 20 to end the separation of families at the border while standing behind “zero tolerance.” The order supersedes current laws that prohibit the detention of minors for more than 20 days.
“Zero tolerance” requires that everyone detained crossing the border illegally be subject to criminal prosecution, which means children will be detained along with their parents while they undergo the court proceedings.
Protesters, including Guereca, said indefinite family detention is not a sustainable solution and are demanding an immediate end to “zero tolerance.” The upsurge in detainees including minors possess logistical challenges for the Customs and Border Agency with several detention facilities reporting that they are at capacity already.
To accommodate the upsurge in detainees the Pentagon agreed June 25 to open two temporary camps at military bases in Texas to hold 20,000 migrant children.
The president and his supporters claim that weak immigration laws have led to the current crisis at the border.
“In the 2016 election, voters said loud and clear that they wanted a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interest,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said June 26 during a speech in downtown Los Angeles.
Sessions defended the “zero-tolerance” policy and said there is no escaping the fact that immigrants crossing the border without documentation are criminals and should be treated as such. Non-prosecutorial immigration policy “sends a message to those in developing nations who don’t know U.S. immigration laws and believe they will be safe from prosecution once they cross the border,” he said.
Sessions did not address the current controversy at the border, stating that the “open border crowd” would criticize the Trump administration no matter what it did.