When Susan Elan was taking a flight home from Dallas to New York on April 30, she noticed three adults with five young children.
During that American Airlines flight, she found out those children were immigrants who had been separated from their parents after they all crossed the border, a governmental contractor with the children told her.
While Elan, a Mahopac resident, didn’t require a first-hand experience to feel outraged by the practice of separating children and parents at the border, it’s still a scene she won’t soon forget. Elan and about 50 other activists were on the steps of the Historic County Courthouse Monday to protest Trump administration policy.
“What they are doing is permanently destructive to the kids,” Elan said.
On June 26, a federal court ordered about 100 young immigrant children and their parents to be reunited by today (Tuesday), but the deadline was extended to Friday. About 3,000 young children were separated by their asylum-seeking parents at the southwest border, with some of the children under the age of 5. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are 11,800 migrant minors in custody. Children under 5 have been placed in 23 facilities across 13 states, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The “zero tolerance” Trump administration policy triggered outrage in recent weeks with mass protests across the country
Patterson resident Andy Falk invoked Martin Luther King, stating the former civil rights icon said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“Well, we ain’t got time for that,” Falk said. “We’ve got rampant racism, we got people taking babies away from their parents and putting them in cages. We need to fight for justice.”
Falk said while he believes in borders, he stressed every person in this country is an immigrant. Falk’s own family came as refugees and he stated the country’s strength is diversity.
“I see us losing our moral clarity,” Falk said, adding that ICE is a “terrorist organization.”
Kent resident Phil Bayer said he’s ashamed of what the United States has become. He even said the government was acting like “Nazis” by taking children away from their parents. .
The American Civil Liberties Union concluded the government will fail to reunite even half the children under 5 with their parents by the Tuesday deadline, although a Trump administration official said the efforts to reunite children are “highly encouraging,” according to a CNN article.
As protesters held signs as drivers whizzed by, some people in cars honked in support and gave a thumbs up. Other drivers offered expletives, whether it be a middle finger or telling the protesters to go to hell. Some drivers shouted “go Trump” and one woman shouted at the protesters to tell immigrants crossing the border to “not to do anything illegal” if they don’t want their children taken away.
Most protesters lived in Putnam, with a few people from Westchester and Dutchess counties.
“This isn’t the United States I grew up in,” Bayer said. “It’s sad. I’m disgusted.”
Norma Pereira said what has been occurring is hurtful and she doesn’t understand why the administration is taking this action. Most people in this country came to America as immigrants, she said, stressing many who want to come to the United States are seeking asylum. Even if they are detained, families should be kept together, she argued.
“No human is illegal,” Pereira said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from.”
Carmel resident Judie Mirra said Trump has created a black mark against his presidency by approving this “ill- conceived plan.”
“These children are going to be scarred forever by this,” Mirra said.
Putnam GOP chairman Tony Scannapieco, who is a supporter of the Republican president, said if parents don’t want to be separated from their children, they shouldn’t cross the border illegally.
“The parents put their children in jeopardy by coming here illegally,” he said. “When Obama did it, it was OK, Democrats didn’t say anything. Because it’s Trump they go crazy.”
He also slammed people that are comparing the president or government officials to Nazis or terrorists.
“They insult all the people who were killed by the Nazis and the American soldiers that were killed by the Nazis to call the president of the United States a Nazi,” Scannapieco said.
When Elan, the Mahopac resident, was asked if some of the terms like “Nazis” or “terrorist” were too emotionally charged, she didn’t believe they were.
“People are always asking why didn’t the Germans do something to stop Hitler, why was everyone passive; they accepted it,” Elan said. “We need to stop this before it’s really too late to stop this.”