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Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC Advocates in 3 Cities for "Families Belong Together"

It was estimated that 600 locations in the U.S. took part in the Families Belong Together actions on Saturday, June 30. Representatives from Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC participated in three cities: Cleveland, Atlanta, and Columbus.

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Our friend and colleague, George Koussa, and we were among the thousands gathered on Public Square in Cleveland, where the energy level, fueled by a quest for justice and outrage over the immigration policies of the Trump administration, was terrifically high. The speakers and the speeches they gave were impassioned, and the sense of commitment was tremendous.

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We were all out there to demand, as key organizer Avril Burg put it, an immigration system based on human dignity and will settle for nothing less than that.

For us, they day belonged to the young people who participated in the rally like 15-year-old Natalia Alonso, who formed a group called Los Ninos De Corsos, which devotes itself to providing assistance to the children of the those arrested by ICE in recent immigration raids.

Along these lines, young Juan Perez could barely hold back his tears as he spoke of the fear and the hardships he and his family have had to endure after his mother was taken into custody by ICE after the recent raid on Corso's Flower and Garden Center. His father is doing all he can to raise the $10,000 necessary to post a bond to free her, but this will be quite difficult.

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Even more powerful was the testimony of Jimmy Rodriguez, a 17-year-old DACA recipient who recently assumed the role of family mainstay after he witnessed his dad being arrested by ICE in the raid on Corso's, where both of them worked. Mr. Rodriguez (even though he is only 17 he deserves to be addressed as "Mr." due to the responsibilities he now has) described in grim detail the degrading treatment both he and his dad had to undergo during the ICE incursion and how he promised his father he would always take care of their family no matter what. Needless to say, Mr. Rodriguez's college plans are now on hold for an indefinite period of time.

The rally wasn't entirely about the challenges faced by undocumented people from the Hispanic countries. For instance, we heard from a  person who is Syrian-American and Muslim about how the restrictions regarding entrance to the U.S. placed upon people from certain counties, primarily Muslim, justifiably angered her because if the restrictions had been in effect only a few years earlier, several of her family members would not have been allowed to immigrate to the U.S. from Syria.

Other speakers focused on the affect family separation is having on the children involved including Lily Cunningham, a licensed professional clinical counselor from Columbus and Dr. Robert Needlman, a local pediatrician who works in the MetroHealth system.

Prior to the start of the rally, Dr. Needlman was kind enough to share his notes with us, so we can quote him as saying: "As a pediatrician I am proud to let you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics representing 66,000 pediatrician around the country has taken a strong stand against the Administration's policy of separating children from their parents."

Dr. Needlman went on to say that pediatricians now see they were wrong in the past to discourage parents from visiting their children when the latter were in the hospital for an extended stay; research has shown that this practice had negative effects on the youngsters.

He acknowledged that "in my behavior clinic I see children who have been taken from their parents, and children whose parents have been taken from them. I see these children struggling, see how they suffer, see how hard it is for them to heal."

Dr. Needlman concluded his remarks by contending, "As citizens, it's our responsibility to speak out against policies that hurt children...we know and must do better. We demand to live in a country where families and children fleeing violence and oppression can live in safety, free from fear."

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Some of our colleagues from the Atlanta office of Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC attended the Families Belong Together March that took place in front of the Martin Luther King Jr Federal Building. The team led, by paralegal Ana Estrada, handed out custom-made t-shirts from our firm that were very appropriate for the event. With messages like "Families Belong Together" and "Don't Lose Faith, Keep Fighting!" on t-shirts in Ms. Wong's signature red, they were hard to miss—which was the idea. Ms. Estrada told us "Thousands showed up to protest against family separation. Representative John Lewis and many pastors and organizations were present. It was amazing to see so many people speaking out and demanding that the government stop the incarceration of children." 

Our Columbus, Ohio based attorney, Asafu Suzuki, participated in the march there. She noted that the attendance in Columbus wasn't as large as in the big cities, but that there were a few hundred people gathered on the Statehouse Lawn and lots of good energy. The speakers were from diverse backgrounds.    

It was truly inspiring to see such a turnout nationwide and the show of solidarity from our fellow activist colleagues.

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates, LLC

 

Aimee Jannsohn