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Residents hold a rally calling for an end to the separation of immigrant children and parents who are detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, outside the Merced County Administration Building. (Photo by Andrew Kuhn)

Merced County Residents Join in ‘Call to Action’ Against Immigrant Family Separation

By Vikaas Shanker—June 29, 2018

A group of San Joaquin Valley residents went to the U.S.-Mexican border last week to examine a detention center for undocumented immigrants and shared their experiences listening to the “cries of immigrant parents” for their separated children.

At a news conference on Friday in front of the Merced County Administration Building, about 20 advocates also urged legislators to join the cause and asked the community to join them Saturday morning in a march against family separation.

“These (families) are being discriminated, being marginalized and humiliated,” said Faith in the Valley community organizer Blanca Ojeda, translating from a fiery speech in Spanish by Delhi resident Blanca Lozano.

As a result of a “zero-tolerance” policy U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced in April, adults would be facing federal prosecution for illegally entering the United States, according to McClatchy DC.

Before that, people crossing the border illegally for the first time were charged with misdemeanors. And the federal government had long-standing policies of swiftly deporting them or pushing them through asylum proceedings, occasionally detaining immigrants and separating them from their children.

Sessions and President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy meant prosecution, detaining and separation for more immigrants.

After public outrage at the sights and sounds of parents and children being separated, Trump signed an executive order ending the separation practice. But the president provided no remedy for those families already separated.

About 500 Valley residents, including those from Merced, joined about 500 others through the Faith in the Valley organization to visit and the privately-run Otay Mesa Detention Center on June 23, officials said.

Ojeda said the trip to the San Ysidro border brought back memories of her own immigration story.

Read more at the Merced Sun-Star.

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