Photo by Jenna Bagcal

Hundreds gathered and marched from Woodside to Sunnyside on Monday night to protest the family separations at the U.S./Mexico border.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer hosted the “March Against Separation,” which began in front of St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church, located at 58-02 Roosevelt Ave. and worked its way down Roosevelt Avenue, across Queens Boulevard and down Greenpoint Avenue before ending at Thomas P. Noonan Jr. Playground. The councilman said that the route chosen for the march was one that immigrants take every day. 

“All of us are here to say in one voice in this great borough of ours, that despite what President Trump would ever say, we know that immigrants are welcome here in Queens. Refugees are welcome here. And families belong together,” said Van Bramer, whose words were met with cheers from the crowd.

He mentioned that President Trump wants to get rid of due process at the border, referencing the president’s tweet which suggested that undocumented immigrants be sent to their countries of origin without hearings.

The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy against illegal immigration on the border began in April and culminated with law enforcement agents separating migrant children from their parents. After a public outcry, Trump signed an executive order last week calling for the end of family separations, opting instead to detain families together. Meanwhile, many questions remain unanswered as to when, or if, separated children will be reunited with their parents.

Protesters held up signs, some that showed photos of real children who had been taken from their families, others that read “Keep families together.” Those who marched through the streets of Woodside made their message clear with a chant: “No hate, no fear. Immigrants are welcome here.”

Van Bramer thanked the local organization and individuals who attended the rally, including Make the Road NY, SEIU 32BJ, the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, Woodside on the Move, Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement, Sunnyside Woodside Action Group, local Girl Scouts and Assemblyman Brian Barnwell.

“This is a nation and this is a borough that knows that we are all immigrants, that we are all the sons and daughters, granddaughters and grandsons of immigrants. And we all know that Queens values are nothing to do with hatred and xenophobia,” Van Bramer said.

Andres Ceballos, a community organizer for the Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement, said that there was a lot of misinformation being spread about Trump’s family separation. The community organizer said that these policies known as “prevention through deterrence” were scare tactics use to prevent mostly Salvadorians and Guatemalans from coming in through the southern border.

“I’d say to those who agree with these policies to really think what America is about, and really think through if they would put their friends, neighbors or families through the same thing that these children are going through,” Ceballos said.

Others, like Sunnyside resident Johan Lopez, said he wanted to quell the beliefs of some that immigrants, and others seeking asylum in the United States, are bad people.

“The fact of the matter is, immigrants are not criminals. We’re not murderers. We’re neighbors. We’re fathers. We’re brothers, sisters. We’re families. This march signifies that fight, and it shows the current administration, and those that support it, that it’s not OK,” Lopez said.

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