At one point during the June 30 “Families Belong Together” rally in downtown Redmond, the roughly 150 attendees were asked to be silent and listen.
A recording, purportedly of migrant children in a detention facility, was played, bringing tears to many eyes. Hearing the crying children brought a stark contrast to the laughter that could be heard coming from children playing at the nearby Centennial Park spray pad.
“The children need us, we are their voices,” said speaker Hilda Leon, an enrollment specialist with the Latino Community Association.
Leon told a personal story of her parents bringing her to California from Mexico as a child in 1989. She said it was not her choice to come, just as it wasn’t the choice of the children being separated from their parents at the border as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration.
The rally was one of three scheduled in Central Oregon and one of hundreds around the country the same day.
The crowd heard music and took part in bilingual chants like “the people united will never be divided.” Some carried signs with messages like “Bring Families Together Stop Trump!” and “I Love My Immigrant Neighbors!”
Though the majority of Redmond residents voted for Trump, the family separation issue is one that can bring Central Oregon residents together, said Brad Porterfield, Latino Community Association executive director.
“If you can take away the politics of the issue and focus on the separation of children and families, and the fact that we are not following our laws and giving people seeking asylum due process — if you focus on that, I believe Central Oregonians support those values,” Porterfield told the Spokesman.
Attendees were also encouraged to keep their voter registration current.
“Our most important public service is to vote,” Gloria Olson said. “If we don’t vote, then for the most part, we can’t count on what’s going to happen because we didn’t register our position.”
The audience was told it could take action in Redmond, including encouraging the city to create a diversity advisory committee. They were also asked to contact Oregon Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to thank them for their work on the issue, and to ask Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, for help.
“He remained silent on DACA, the status of dreamers, comprehensive immigration reform, but, instead, last week on the floor of the Congress, spouted his defense for a yahoo from Burns who had taken over and made his home into a compound against the government,” said Oscar Gonzalez, the Latino Community Association’s program manager, apparently referring to Walden’s request to Trump to pardon Harney County ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were convicted of arson for two fires on federal rangelands. After initially being sentenced to jail time, the Hammonds were ordered to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of five years, which Walden considers too harsh.
According to a news release, Walden discussed a pardon for the Hammonds with Trump later on June 30, saying the president is “seriously considering” the move.
Walden recently voted for a conservative immigration bill that failed when 41 fellow Republicans voted against it. His office has told The Bulletin that Walden, “supports correcting the current complications from court decisions that have led to children being separated from their parents.”
Some commenters expressed opposition to the protesters when the Spokesman posted a photo from the rally on its Facebook page.
“I agree, families should be together. I am pretty sure that when someone decides to drag their children across all of Mexico, they already know what the ramifications will be when the get here and try to illegally cross our borders. The onus isn’t on the US government, its on the parents,” poster Dean Lanouette wrote.
— Reporter: 541-548-2186, firstname.lastname@example.org