More than 300 people marched from Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati onto the walkways on the eastern side of the Roebling Suspension Bridge yesterday to protest recent "zero-tolerance" immigration policies that have led to the separation of immigrant families and the detention of undocumented minors in prison-like conditions.
The protest — organized by a number of local progressive groups including the Northern Kentucky Justice and Peace Committee, Together We Will of Central and Southwest Ohio, Indivisible NKY and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth's NKY Chapter — included chants and a moment of silence for families that had been separated.
The new policies, ushered in by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, pursue prosecution for all incoming undocumented immigrants, including those seeking asylum. As adults are sent through the legal system, the young people they sometimes bring with them are sent to different detention centers. Many, including a former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas holding almost 1,500 young people, have reached capacity. That's caused the federal government to announce recently that it would begin housing young migrants in tent cities on military bases.
At least one local family has already felt the implications of the new policies. Last month, CityBeat wrote about a local woman whose two sons were separated at the border as they attempted to reach her after fleeing gang violence in Honduras. Border agents did not believe the elder of the two, who is 16, was a minor, and held him in an adult immigration detention center. His family did not know his whereabouts until a local legal aid center stepped in to help.
Sessions' policy announcement is the latest in a series of moves by the Trump administration to curtail undocumented immigration into the United States. Those efforts, including raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, have had an impact locally.
Migrants coming from countries like Mexico and Guatemala are sometimes coming to the U.S. border seeking asylum as they flee gang violence, domestic abuse or severe economic deprivation. But pathways to asylum — already a complicated, years-long process — are narrowing. Sessions also recently announced that the U.S. would not grant asylum claims based on domestic abuse.