Demonstrators gather at Tarrant County Courthouse for Families Belong Together March and Rally
The marchers at the Fort Worth "Families Belong Together" march and rally on Saturday argued that the people sneaking across United States borders come because they want their children to live.
The marchers, who covered at least two city blocks as they walked from the Tarrant County Courthouse on Weatherford Street to the federal building on Taylor Street, held signs that said children do not belong in cages and chanted that immigrants and asylum seekers deserved justice now.
The gathering was to protest the Trump administration's policy of criminally prosecuting anyone who crosses United States borders without authorization.
The Fort Worth march and rally was one of more than 700 rallies planned in cities and towns nationwide, according to published reports.
Family separations were taking place in April and May and garnered international scrutiny in mid-June when the Department of Homeland Security announced it has separated at least 2,000 children from their parents since the policy was announced. President Trump reversed his own policy on June 20 by signing an executive order to detain families together after they cross the border, rather than separating them. It's still unclear how the zero tolerance policy will be carried out, nor is it clear how the family reunification process will be implemented.
But the news of immigration policy changes have not kept people from other countries from coming to the United States, activists said. The conditions that people are trying to escape by crossing United State's borders without authorization are beyond hopeless, according to those activists who spoke after at the march.
"They flee because they've seen their family members killed in front of their houses," said Juana Guzman, a 26-year-old community organizer with the pro-immigration advocacy group, Raices. "They flee because their children are threatened with death unless they join a gang."
The poverty immigrants face, the unrest, the corruption in their own country's governments, while compelling reasons to leave, are not the most compelling reasons forcing immigrants to abandon their nations, Raices workers said. Immigrants seeking asylum in the United States come so their children can live.
The undeclared wars between rival gangs, between gangs and Central American governments, are all real wars, according to Jennifer de Haro, a Raices immigration attorney who spoke at the rally following the march.
"About 90 percent of my clients from El Salvador are here due to the gang violence," de Haro said.
The goal of the march and rally Saturday was to get people registered to vote and then to get them to the polls when it's time to vote.
"What we do here today doesn't matter if we don't get people to the polls," said Jessica Ramirez, 31, of Fort Worth.
Eight people were registered to vote and four individuals were persuaded to volunteer to register others, Tristeza Ordex-Ramirez, president of El Voto Es Latino, said following the rally.
In the Latino community in Tarrant County, some are afraid to vote, even though they are legally able to vote, Ordex-Ramirez said.
"They are afraid of being deported, of being discriminated against," Ordex-Ramirez said. "They are afraid of being accused of being an undocumented immigrant. We just need to make sure people in the Latino community know how important it is to vote."
This story includes information from Star-Telegram archives.