OTAY MESA, CALIFORNIA - Protests continue over the treatment of migrants detained in Texas for entering the United States illegally, although the Trump administration on Wednesday reversed its controversial practice of separating detained children and parents at the border.
On Sunday, about 30 parents who have been separated from their children by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol were released. U.S. officials had dropped criminal charges against the parents, who had been apprehended entering the country illegally.
Annunciation House, an El Paso, Texas, organization that aids immigrants, said it would be receiving the parents. It was not known how or when they might be reunited with their children.
Annunciation House Director Ruben Garcia said, "It is my understanding the charges were not dismissed by a judge, but rather they were withdrawn by the government."
Garcia said the immigrants were given little guidance, other than an 800 number to call, to try to get information about their children. Some of the 30 parents were being held in the El Paso County facilities, he said.
Still, thousands of migrants remain in detention awaiting their court cases, and many are still apart from their children. As the dramatic story unfolds, Americans are hearing conflicting narratives.
On Sunday, about 100 people had gathered in Tornillo, Texas, where a children's tent encampment has been built to deal with the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy. Protesters chanted, "Free the children now!" according to the El Paso Times.
At an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Otay Mesa, California, near the U.S.-Mexico border, protesters on Friday chanted “immigrants are welcome” and demanded the release of the families detained in Texas.
“They’ve got a big mess right now, families that are separated that can’t even talk to each other, connect with each other, make sure that everybody in the family is still okay,” said protester Jan Denny. “We’re not even sure yet how they’re going to get all these people reunited,” she added of the confusion surrounding the shifting policy.
At the White House on Friday, President Donald Trump highlighted other families whose loved ones had been killed by illegal immigrants. “These are the families the media ignores,” he said, as he introduced people holding photos of their loved ones.
“Respect this country. Respect the laws of this country, and then you can come in, like my family did,” said Agnes Gibboney, the mother of a son killed by an illegal immigrant.
The Trump administration says 500 of the more than 2,000 separated children have been reunited with their families.
Protesters in California say Trump is following a pattern of blaming migrants for the nation’s problems.
“Whether these are Chinese immigrants, whether these are Mexicano immigrants, and now Central American immigrants,” said a protester named Myron of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, “there has always been an excuse to blame others.”
Among those raising their voices at the rally was Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California.
Harris, a frequent Trump critic, toured an adult detention center, where she met with mothers separated from their family members and children. “This is a fight,” she said, “born out of knowing who we are and fighting for the ideals of our country.”
Julian Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama administration, told demonstrators in Tornillo Sunday that it's an issue "about what is right and what is wrong."
Trump has demanded better border security and a merit-based system of immigration. Protesters say he wants to bar immigrants from the developing world, who already face a hard path to entry and huge backlog of cases.
“We have a broken immigration system,” said Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. "This is not news to anybody."
The immigration issue is divisive, but Andrew Pappas of Cincinnati, Ohio, told the Associated Press that he believes Trump’s goal “was not to tear families apart” but “to make Congress act on immigration reform.”
One California border protester, Ellen Montanari, said the issue is close to her heart because her adopted daughter is Latina, like most families in detention.
“We do need sane members of Congress to sit down and talk about what a reasonable immigration policy looks like,” Montanari said, although she worries that in this year of congressional elections, there will instead be more posturing.