Thursday, August 2, 2018

Protesters Come From Across Metro Atlanta 6/30

Protesters gathered from across the metropolitan area gathered in Atlanta June 30 to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's aggressive immigration enforcement that has separated 2,000 children from their parents.

According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, over 4,000 protesters marched through Atlanta from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)'s Atlanta Detention Center to the Richard B. Russell Federal Building in protest of recent "zero tolerance" immigration enforcement. U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a veteran civil-rights campaigner, spoke to marchers outside the Richard B. Russell Federal Building. The protest was one of many such protests the AJC reported taking place nationwide.

These protesters came from different regions of the metropolitan area. Anna Crumbliss came from Doraville, while Eli Banks came from near Grant Park. Coming a little farther afield was Kara Sweeney from Johns Creek, GA.

"This is a time in the US when we have to resist any and all policies and actions that lead us away from our humanity and compassion," Sweeney said when asked why she was participating in the protest. "The family separation practices at the border, implemented by the Trump Administration, are cruel and unnecessary."

Banks echoed her words, saying that previous U.S. immigration policies were questionable already and that detaining children separately from their parents was cruel and unnecessary. Crumbliss said she participated in the rally because she wanted to show compassion for immigrants mistreated by the government and advocate for compassion and change.

Banks described the protest as "passionate, but friendly." There were no counter-protests he could see, or other incidents of friction. Sweeney said there was a good turn-out when the protesters gathered at the detention center. Protesters cheered and waved to ICE detainees within the building, who waved back. She described the march as not being particularly long, less than a mile.

"The rally was the most beautiful environment I could have imagined," Crumbliss said. "Everyone there was advocating for others, beaming with hospitality, and fighting for the America that we know and love."

She said the love that echoed through Atlanta when the protesters started chanting, "Love, not hate, makes America great!" gave her the chills because of its power. She said she was proud to be part of a movement of people from all walks of live, ages, and religions coming together to fight for justice.

Although representatives from ICE could not be reached for comment, Banks, Crumbliss, and Sweeney did not report seeing any of them there. Banks said that he only saw a few police and members of the Atlanta Fire Department. Crumbliss said the police mainly directed traffic and kept protest participants safe.

"It was a very peaceful and upbeat event where all we felt from the police present was support and respect. We appreciated them being there," she said.

When asked about what they thought the government should do, all three said ICE should immediately reunite separated children with their parents, a process that is still going on despite a court-ordered deadline. Banks went on to advocate for more humane centers for those still detained, citing how illegal entry into the U.S. is only a misdemeanor. He advocated a path to citizenship for those who entry the country without documentation rather than immediately deporting them. Crumbliss stated that although open borders is impractical, the U.S. should spend monies earmarked for a border wall she described as "pointless" by revising existing rules to not count families of skilled workers who get green cards against the 140,000 yearly cap, something she said would eliminate the backlog of Indian, Chinese, and Filipinos in the U.S. on work visas. This would allow these immigrants to start businesses or change jobs without bureaucratic hurdles.

Crumbliss also advocated allowing the states to run their own visa programs alongside the federal one to allow for workers to be brought in for state-specific industries, specifically suggesting that dairy-producing states could create agricultural visas for farm workers as an example. Crumbliss cited regional visa programs like Canada's Provincial Nominee Program or Australia's different regional schemes.

"These programs have created greater population and employment growth," she said.

Sweeney advocated Donald Trump be impeached for his role in the crisis and stated that her ideal immigration system would be based on compassion and human dignity and be free from racial discrimination.

Although Banks said he would be making sure to write his elected representatives and Crumbliss said she believed that the current administration's policies would likely prompt her to protest again, Sweeney had the most elaborate plans.

"We are an activist family," she said. "We believe in being allies to those who are oppressed or harmed."

She attended a meeting a local mosque to learn how Trump's blocking of immigrants from several Muslim nations impacted Muslim communities. Her church Unitarian Universalist Metro Atlanta North is deeply involved in political activism and Sweeney described how she contacted senators and congressmen daily to protest the Trump administration's policies. She also campaigns for local political candidates and will be looking for volunteer opportunities with the communities most impacted by the administration.

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