IOWA CITY — Naniel Woode didn’t get to say goodbye to her mother before she was deported several years ago, and she hasn’t seen her mother since.
Woode, 20, took on a parental role for her two younger siblings while she herself was only a teenager in their Columbus, Ohio home after her mother was deported to Ghana.
“I wasn’t like your regular teenager or high school kid that went out with friends to movies, went skating, or even hanging out with friends,” she said. “I was always at home.”
Hundreds of protesters, including Woode, gathered Saturday on the University of Iowa Pentacrest to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies in the Iowa City Families Belong Together march.
“Say it loud. Say it clear. Immigrants are welcome here” is one of several chants that rang out in Iowa City streets as protesters marched to College Green Park.
Manny Galvez, 41, who runs the Spanish magazine El Trueque and helped organize the march, said it is important for allies to gather to create change.
“The Latino culture of the family is so important,” he said. “ ... We cannot send this message to the world that families can be separated.”
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More than 600 marches were scheduled across the country to denounce the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy under which adults crossing the border illegally are to be prosecuted as criminals.
Protesters also urged the federal government to reunite the more than 2,000 children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border by U.S. immigration authorities.
Trump signed an executive order June 20 to put an end his own administration’s practice of separating families at the border.
“You can’t just tear families apart like that,” said Woode, who is in Iowa City for a UI summer program. “ ... Even me even though I was a teenager, my mom just not being around … it was really, really hard for me.”
The rally came a day before Iowa’s new “sanctuary cities” legislation takes effect Sunday denying funding to local entities that discourage enforcement of federal immigration policies.
Regarding Trump’s immigration policies, Gov. Kim Reynolds told reporters June 28 that is a federal issue, but she said she thinks it would be worth considering pathways to citizenship and visa programs to help fill worker shortages in states such as Iowa.
“We need to, of course, secure the borders,” Reynolds said. “I think that’s a really important part of the immigration policy, but we need to streamline it so that we can help people that want to come here, help them get here.”
Iowa City resident Ignacio Alvarez, 41, the treasurer of League of United Latin American Citizens 308 and a son of undocumented immigrants, said immigrants benefit the community and the economy.
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“My parents ... came to the United States to give their kids a better opportunity,” he said.
He said he has pictured being separated from his own family — “me being separated from my daughter, my daughter being separated from me.”
“Yesterday she was talking about it,” he said, “and she was like, ‘Dad, I’m really sad. I don’t want to be away from you.’”
The practice of family separation does not represent what America really is, Alvarez said.
“It’s not human,” he said, likening the practice to slavery or keeping people in internment camps.
Cat Fribley, 47, of Iowa City said it’s heartbreaking to see this unfold.
“Families don’t just belong together,” she said, arms in the air holding a “No Detention” sign. “They belong together, not in jail.”
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