‘I want them to know that they’re not alone’ — Seattle joins nationwide rallies for immigration rights

In a show of unity and solidarity just days before the nation’s Independence Day holiday, thousands of demonstrators gathered Saturday at the SeaTac Federal Detention Center to rally against current immigration policies, the mistreatment of immigrant families, and to protest the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) separation of children from their parents.

Waves of families and activists poured off the light rail at Angle Lake station near Sea-Tac airport, and filled the street in front of the detention center while guards and cameras watched the crowd from the rooftop.

The Families Belong Together rally, a nationwide coordinated day of action, kicked off a week of activity directed at ICE treatment of immigrants and the Trump Administration’s immigration policy. The event at SeaTac brought together an estimated 6,000-8,000 people, including unions, veterans, human rights organizations, elected officials, and community members.

The SeaTac Federal Detention Center is currently holding at least 200 immigrants, 174 women and 26 men, according to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. These detainees are a fraction of what’s being being held for processing and deportation around the country, in addition to those already serving time on immigration charges.

Jayapal was the first member of Congress to speak directly to parents impacted by Trump’s family separation policy inside a federal prison and has been arrested twice in recent weeks protesting President Trump’s cruel policies of family separation and indefinite family incarceration.

With the rally held only being 100 yards away from the detention facility and separated only by a tall fence and the building’s walls and windows, those inside the facility could likely hear the chants and singing Saturday from such a large crowd.

There are also 1,575 immigrants and asylum seekers at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma (a private prison run by the Geo Group). According to immigration activist Maru Mora-Villalpando, “over half of the NWDC population comes from the border.”

Rebecca Saldana –
What do you want the people inside the detention center to know?
“We want them to know that we don’t agree and that we think it’s illegal for them to be separated from their families. It’s illegal and unconstitutional.”
What do you want the federal administration to know?
“We have a history in the federal government using racism and fear to lock up families, like Japanese internment camps, and we’d like to think we’d learn from that, but they’re just repeating that, it’s a part of history that should have been history. That’s why everyone’s here today.”
What does it mean to you to be an American?
“To be an American is to be someone that believes in ideals. That believes that every human being is equal and has right to fulfillment and pursue happiness, to seek liberty, and to realize their dreams. That is the American promise. Despite so many injustices that are built in to our United States of America, I also believe in the ideals of democracy. That it’s worth fighting for democracy that’s human and inclusive and one that’s worth being part of.”
Mohammed “Moh” Kilani
What do you want the people inside the detention center to know?
“I am an Iraqi immigrant and an American citizen. I want them to know that they’re not alone. We are thinking about them. We are trying to figure out ways that we can help them. We don’t know specifically what to do, but we are trying. We haven’t forgotten. This is the third week in a row we’ve run protests. There’s a week following this. It’s a host of different organizations, the Muslim community, the Latino communities, Seattle Women Marching Forward, it’s my organization, the Truman National Security Project and we’re all working together trying to amplify the message and see what we can do.”
What do you want the federal administration to know?
“We oppose these policies. These are draconian, immoral, unconscionable things they are doing. These are not things that make us safer. These are not things that are morally valid. These are not things that are in any way ethically sound. This is cruelty and that’s all it is.”
What does it mean to you to be an American?
“To be an American is to live in a country that accepts everyone. That is a haven for people coming from all parts of the world where we can live our lives in harmony, and to borrow a phrase, seek the pursuit of happiness. Not based on religion or ethnicity, but on common shared values, that we are all human beings and we all have unalienable, God given rights. America’s not perfect, but we shouldn’t be moving backwards. We should be trying to live up to the standards this country was founded on.”
Kshama Sawant
What do you want the people inside the detention center to know?
“The most important message for those inside the detention center to hear is that they are not alone. The vast majority of working people in America and throughout the world are completely opposed to Trumps inhumane and horrific agenda against immigrant people. Mass movements of ordinary people like the thousands here can fight back and defeat Trumps agenda.”
What do you want the federal administration to know?
“We as working people of all ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, all genders, and working people for everywhere in the world have a zero tolerance policy against your right wing agenda. There is an enormous potential for tens of millions of American people to fight back against the right wing.”
What does it mean to you to be an American?
“To me, what it means to be an American, is to be in solidarity with working people around the globe and to want a society that is able to harness all it’s incredible wealth to deliver decent standards of living for everybody, end poverty, hunger, racism, sexism, and address climate change.”
Micah Wilson
What do you want the people inside the detention center to know?
“Keeping kids in cages is wrong. Keeping kids away from their families is wrong. It doesn’t have to be like this, whether we let people in or not, we can treat people humanely.”
What do you want the federal administration to know?
“We don’t support this policy and we need to examine our morals if we are criminalizing people who want to come here and are fleeing bad situations or simply want to come to America. Why should those people be treated as criminals or enemies of the state.”
What does it mean to you to be an American?
“America is a continent of people. This is where we live. This is our home. People who make their home in America are Americans.”

Speakers at the rally included immigrants and refugees who shared their stories of coming to the United States. They spoke of the hardships they faced, determination they had for a better life, and the widely held belief that the U.S. would be a safer place for them to raise their families than the home they’d known all their lives.

Some who addressed the crowd touched on the beauty seen as people around the country come together to protect immigrants, refugees, and any person who wants to be in this country.

At one point, a speaker asked the crowd to take a minute and say hello to the person next to them and tell them that they were there with them in solidarity.

Following the rally, people on the light rail were meeting, exchanging phone numbers, and talking. As the train made its way back toward Seattle, one rider said to another rally attendee, “This shows us that people feel like we do, that we aren’t alone, that there are thousands of us who are unified in this fight. It gives us something to hope for.”

CORRECTION: CHS mistakenly reported the nationality of Mohammed Kilani. He is Iraqi-American. Sorry for the error.


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