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.”
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.