MORGANTOWN — Donning signs, hats and bottles of water, a group of people came out for the March to Keep Families and Children Safe & Together. The walk was organized by Mountaineers for Progress, a nonprofit organization that advocates for progressive issues.
The march was in response to President Trump’s immigration policy, in which undocumented children are separated from their parents when they cross the U.S. border.
Monday June 18, the group congregated at the Seneca Center, where Representative David McKinley’s office is located. They then made their way to the Waterfront District and outside Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s office, in hopes to demonstrate the importance of the issue.
Also Monday June 18, Senator Joe Manchin signed the Keep Families Together Act, of which McKinley and Capito have not made a stance about publicly. Manchin was the last Democratic member of the Senate to support the legislation.
After the long trek to the Waterfront, several speakers made remarks about their feelings on the issue, including religious leaders and Dr. Deborah Bergen, a psychiatrist who talked about children and the effect of separation from guardians. She spoke on behalf of many organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, which publicly denounced separation of children at the border.
Kendra Fershee, who is running as a Democrat to represent West Virginia’s First Congressional District, said the march has to happen because she believes we don’t have leadership on the issue. She said there are too many elected officials who are saying nothing in light of the “most barbaric practice that we have seen in the United States.”
“This is something that you can see how many people are here who are incredibly upset and bothered by what’s happening right now, and we need people to stand up and say that it’s wrong,” she said.
Mollie Kennedy, community outreach coordinator of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of WV, was among the speakers Monday evening. She also participated in the walk.
The ACLU covers a lot of ground, Kennedy said.
They work with women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and prison reform, among other things.
“Pretty much any situation where someone’s civil liberties are being infringed upon, they will be there to try to right the situation,” she said.
She said seeing what’s happening to children, and what the administration is telling people, it’s vitally important people have the right information and that families are kept together. She said it’s the right thing to do, and the ACLU believes it’s right under the law to do it.
Kennedy used to be an English second-language teacher and worked with immigrant populations.
“This is something that is really close to my heart, as well. I feel really strongly that you know people are coming here seeking refuge, they’re coming here for safety, they’re coming here to find a better life for their families, and it’s just completely unacceptable to be ripping children out of their parents’ arms. It’s just wrong,” she said.
She encouraged con-tacting government representatives and making sure people vote to voice their concerns.
Kennedy was pleased to see the turnout. She said it was a fantastic crowd especially being with temperatures in the mid-90s. She said she saw people with their kids and walked next to somebody pushing two children in a stroller.
“It obviously has to go through the political system, but I think a lot of people just realize this is wrong, and we don’t want to see kids ripped out of their parent’s arms at the border, it’s just horrific,” she said.