On July 28, 2018, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) office in Williston, VT to protest our government’s inhumane separation of children from their parents and illegal treatment of immigrants seeking asylum. Thirteen of us—two still children themselves—blocked traffic in and out of the ICE parking lot. We were arrested for disorderly conduct and are now facing trial in Chittenden Superior Court in October.
This was not our first protest against the immigration policies of the Trump administration, but it was the first in which we chose civil disobedience. The cruel treatment of our fellow human beings, including infants and children, was, and remains, so egregious that we felt we had to do more.
We thought that U.S. law presumes innocence until proven guilty. We thought that asylum seekers, fleeing threats of death or torture at home, and presenting themselves at our border, have the right to due process, guaranteed by international treaties to which our country is a party. We thought the United States was not a country that deliberately separates families with no plan or intention of reuniting them, ever..
We were wrong.
A country that champions family values must honor family and its bonds. Yet we have witnessed children separated on a moment’s notice from their parents. We have learned of parents forced to make an impossible choice between being deported and leaving their children behind forever, or bringing them back to the mortal dangers they risked life and limb to escape. In the weeks since a court-ordered deadline to reunite all these families, over 400 children remained separated (as reported by PBS on September 7), their parents’ whereabouts apparently unknown to the agency that tore them away. Many of these children will never see their parents again. They have been permanently orphaned by ICE, by our government. Meanwhile, so-called “temporary” facilities to hold migrant children are not closing but growing—just one, in El Paso, is expanding from 1,200 to 3,800 beds—as our government diverts appropriations away from disaster relief (FEMA) to ICE.
Yet we, like most Americans, oppose the illegal and inhumane treatment of immigrants. We, the people, did not choose a policy of ripping families apart, kidnapping children, and creating orphans. We do not believe most Americans want their government and their tax dollars to carry out this immoral activity.
Nor do we think most Vermonters want their police and county court resources used to protect the illegal activities of ICE within our state, or have their state tax dollars spent on prosecuting us for trying to impede ICE’s rogue mission. If you agree, please tell ICE in Williston (802-872-6050) or the Chittenden County State’s Attorney (802-863-2865) how you feel.
Tanyan Avendano, Newfane
Nancy Braus, Putney
Carol Dodge Davis, Brattleboro
David Feurzeig, Huntington
Constance Lesold, Buffalo NY
Max Magen, West Marlboro
Mike McCleese, Worcester
Ursula Nadolny, Guilford
Gertie Siegel, Burlington
Rachel Siegel, Burlington
Fairen Stark, Newfane