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Alexis Hernandez and John Vasquez of San Marcos stand holding signs as they watch the group of speakers share their views opposing family detention at the Rally to End Family Detention Wednesday evening hosted by Mano Amiga outside the Hays County Historic Courthouse. Daily Record photos by Denise Cathey

Rally for Families

Separation Protest

Local immigrant rights group Mano Amiga held a rally on the south side of the Hays County Courthouse on Wednesday, right after the San Marcos City Council adopted a resolution opposing the separation of families at the border. Members of the public, including church leaders, spoke to the crowd at the rally about the effects of “zero tolerance” immigration policies.

Mano Amiga has condemned President Donald Trump’s June 20 executive order as “false cause for hope,” stating that the order allows the U.S. government to detain men, women and children indefinitely. 

“We need to stop prosecuting parents for asking for asylum and seeking refuge. People are coming here because they are afraid in their home countries. We need to welcome them into this nation which, for so long, has claimed to be a country of immigrants. We should live up to those words,” Mano Amiga co-founder Karen Muñoz said. “We need to fight against incarceration and against internment camps. The pursuit of happiness is a foundational principle of the United States and the way we’re treating these people is fundamentally opposed to that principle. We should not be criminalizing these children’s parents. Families belong together, but not in detention.”

Supporters of the movement to end family detention gathered on the courthouse lawn to hear members of the community speak while holding signs of protest — one with a child’s “onesie” hanging from it — against the immigration policy that separates parents from their children. 

Alex Mylius, an early childhood development specialist, said that she wanted to speak at the rally — as an individual and as a mother of four children — about the effects of trauma on children.

“We have sanctioned trauma on young children,” she said of the family separations occurring at the border.

Trauma can have long-term effects on children’s physical and mental health. Mylius said. It puts children at greater risk for heart disease, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other health problems, she said, adding that children affected by trauma can develop “toxic stress response” that puts their stress response on high alert for the rest of their lives. 

“Young children are intensely affected by experiences in the first years of their life,” Mylius said.

Mark Rockeymoore from the San Marcos Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (SMUUF) then spoke about his denomination’s actions to condemn current immigration policy and Mano Amiga’s role in those actions. At its general assembly last weekend, the Unitarian Universalist Association approved an “action of immediate witness” calling for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Mano Amiga co-founders Muñoz and Jordan Buckley were delegates to the assembly from SMUUF and helped write and get the resolution passed. The resolution even mentions Mano Amiga San Marcos — along with the American Civil Liberties Union, Mijente, U.U. Refugee and Immigrant Services and others — as a group that Unitarian Universalists are called upon to help with volunteering and donations.

The Rev. Tim Bauerkemper from the First Lutheran Church spoke about the number and variety of faith groups that have spoken out against the separation of families at the border.

“People of faith have to raise their voice — are compelled to raise their voice in the face of injustice,” he said, noting that Pope Francis, Franklin Graham and a chorus of American Protestants have all agreed that the policy of separating families is wrong.

“This is something we can be unanimous on,” Bauerkemper said.

He then quoted Leviticus 19:33, a Bible verse which reads, in part, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.”

“There’s not a ‘but’ in there,” Bauerkemper said. “There’s not an ‘unless.’ There’s not a loophole in there. There’s no room for an executive order in there.”

John Vasquez, a San Marcos resident who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, shared his thoughts on immigration policies. He spoke about serving alongside undocumented immigrants who were promised citizenship and who died in the line of duty before they could make it home.

“To sit here and hear people say they weren’t good enough, they were nothing more than rapists and drug dealers, they weren’t the best — I beg to differ,” he said. “I’ve seen the best.”

Vasquez spoke about the violence that many families at the border are fleeing in countries where drug cartels threaten citizens to join them or die. If someone made such threats to anyone’s children, he said, “You dang well would do whatever it took to keep them alive, period.”

Vasquez said when he sees what is going on at the border, he wonders, “What did I serve for? What did I bleed for? What did my comrades die for? It wasn’t for this. We fought for a dream. … We fought for an idea that still can prevail.”

Participants in the San Marcos rally were encouraged to join a caravan to Brownsville to participate in the ACLU’s “Families Belong Together” rally at the border. Several members of Mano Amiga made the drive down on Thursday morning. 

San Marcos Record

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