Erin Donovan had her hands full on a hot Saturday afternoon outside the Cortland post office, her right hand holding her 6-year-old son’s hand and her left arm holding her 2-yearold daughter. Donovan held a piece of paper advocating for immigrant children not to be separated from their families.
“I couldn’t imagine them (my children) being taken away from me,” said Homer resident Donovan.
She stood making her point in the 90-degree weather for 30 minutes, part of a crowd of more than 60 people assembled outside the post office for the “Families Belong Together” rally.
Donovan’s goal –– allied with those around her and thousand of others who peacefully protested across the United States at the same time –– was to bring awareness to the federal government’s policy of detaining immigrant families and separating parents from their children at the border.
More than 2,000 immigrant children were separated from their parents under President Donald Trump’s administration’s policy to do so, according to the Associated Press. After outcry from across the country on the policy, Trump recently signed an executive order to reverse it — keeping families together in detention, according to the Associated Press.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) recently called for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to be rid of and reimagined, according to the Associated Press.
Donovan said the more people that get involved, the better the chance they could get their government representatives to fight for them.
“This country was founded by immigrants,” Donovan said.
Homer resident Jane Hall said she is a proud immigrant, now a United States resident, having come from England. She came to the U.S. when she was 24 years old in 1974.
“This is a totally different country,” Hall said, comparing the U.S. to what it was like when she first came here. “It is one I don’t recognize.”
She said the situation is very personal to her.
During the protest, hosted by Indivisible Cortland County — an independent, nonpartisan grassroots civic group formed by all-volunteer Cortland County residents after the 2016 elections — attendees sang songs and spoke about the federal government’s treatment of immigrants.
“If we don’t stand up for human rights, who are we?” Indivisible member Nancy Dafoe said.
While the rally was mellow, attendees made their opinions apparent through the large signs they held.
“Do not take away babies from their parents,” read a sign held by one young boy. “America does not imprison families,” another sign read. “Build kindness not walls,” one small cardboard sign read.
Protesters who oppose U.S. immigration policy gather Saturday on Main Street in Cortland.
Among the crowd, one sign varied from the rest. Cortland resident Erich DeMunn stood quietly with his sign that read “Support legal imigrants (sic)” on one side and “Build the wall” on the other.
“I totally support immigration, legal immigration,” DeMunn said. “You have to come in the right way.”
He said he believes this for the safety of the country, saying, “you don’t just let anyone into your house.”
While DeMunn stood in silence with little resistance from those rallying for the migrant families, another man passing by chose to make sure he was heard. He yelled out statements like “my parents came here legally” and said the people were doing the rally just to get more Democratic voters.
Dafoe rebutted him, stating, “We’re here for humanity.”
The man walking by was calmly escorted away by a police officer.
Leaving the rally with her two kids close, her son also holding a sign about supporting migrant families, there was the question of whether Donovan’s goal was achieved.
“Hopefully,” she said.