Office of Public Witness joins march to keep families together


More than 600 marches take place across the country in support of immigrant families

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – From New York to Atlanta and cities across the U.S., demonstrators took to the streets last weekend as part of the “Families Belong Together” campaign. The marches were held to protest the separation of nearly 2,000 immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In Washington, D.C., staff from the Office of Public Witness (OPW) joined PC(USA) Co-Moderator the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann in the march.

“It is incredibly important for Presbyterians to see their newly elected co-moderator get into the thick of advocacy work almost immediately after taking on her new role,” said Nora Leccese, associate for Domestic Poverty and Environmental Issues with the OPW. “Photos from last Saturday’s march have been shared hundreds of times from our Facebook page and it was good to have her out there to take part in this important action.”

Organizers estimate that as many as 50,000 people took part in the D.C. march.

“They gathered in front of the White House where several people spoke to the crowd including undocumented students, children who had experienced family separation as well as a few elected officials,” she said. “They were supposed to march to the U.S. Department of Justice, but there were so many people involved that a contingent broke off and marched to the Capitol.”

The OPW, like other faith groups and organizations, is hoping the marches and other protests will convince the Trump administration to move quickly to reunite families that were separated when they crossed the border into the U.S.

“We believe this action is building momentum toward midterm elections. As a church, we do not endorse candidates, but we can encourage getting out the vote, do nonpartisan election work and make sure all citizens know their rights,” said Leccese. “Congress has demonstrated it’s not willing to make humane immigration policies, which means we need to get new people in Congress.”

Under the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, children were separated from their families upon entering the U.S. illegally. The president, under public pressure, stopped the practice earlier this month. However, the OPW and other organizations believe that more needs to be done to quickly reunite children with their parents.

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