NEWPORT — Bill Dalbey was incensed about news of children separated from their families along the nation’s southern border and held in cages.
“I’m standing up for these kids to get them out of cages,” Dalbey said. “We need to wake up and look at what’s happening.”
Dalbey was part of a group with 30-35 local activists staging a demonstration outside Newport City Hall at noon Tuesday. Some carried signs displaying phrases — “Close the Camps” and “No Kids in Cages” among them — and gathered around a makeshift cage with a child-sized makeshift dummy inside.
“They can build a cage if they like,” Dalbey said of what others can do to draw attention to the plight of children held in cages in detention centers along the border and other parts of the United States. “This has got to stop.”
The ire and passion for raising awareness of the situation on the border was shared by many who came out to show support for the cause. While many had different ideas about how to go about changing policy and the effects on migrants on the ground, everyone there held an attitude some described as shame or disgust.
“First of all, we need to start treating immigrants as victims, not as criminals,” said Heather Fortner, a local artist at the protest. “I have absolute disgust with our government’s policies. I’d like to see an immigration policy that is fair and decent.”
According to several national U.S. news outlets, nearly 3,000 children were separated from their families under national immigration policy in the first few months of President Donald Trump’s administration. While the president signed an executive order last summer ordering a stop to family separations, an estimated 700 more families have been separated since then. It has been widely reported children separated from their families or who arrive in the United States alone are held in detention centers in concrete cells, with little amenities or basic care or comforts.
The issue of the county’s current immigration policies faces even more intense and renewed scrutiny in light of photos surfacing of a deceased father and his young daughter, who were thought to have drowned in the Rio Grande River trying to cross the rough waters into Texas. Some locals at the Tuesday protest in Newport saw that photo and felt incensed enough to participate in Tuesday’s demonstration.
“No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land,” said Fortner, quoting a poem titled “Home” by Somali-British writer Warsan Shire, in response to that photo.