Keep Families Together Rally
By Robert Bernstein
"Keep Families Together" was the rally theme Wednesday night in front of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. President Trump had ordered children be taken from families at the border who were legally seeking asylum. This was an unprecedented increase of anti-immigrant action by the Trump Administration.
Here are all of my photos from the rally.
The crowd was large and attentive to those who spoke
Trump came under fire not only from the usual human rights and civil rights crowd. He also came under fire from many leading Republicans and from many of his base in the religious community. Every living First Lady joined forces to condemn the policy.
Former CIA Director Michael Hayden on Monday said he sees a "commonality" between Nazi Germany's separation of children at concentration camps and the Trump administration policy that is forcing children to be separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
At first Trump claimed only Congress could change the policy. This clearly was untrue, given that Trump had created the policy unilaterally by Executive Order. Under this consolidated opposition, Trump claimed he was reversing this policy with a new Executive Order.
But the protesters were not fooled. As with the Korea agreement, the substance was not the same as what was being claimed. Nothing in Trump's new order will reunite the thousands of children currently in detention centers with their families.
But, more important, US immigration policy has been cruel, counterproductive, arbitrary and inhumane for decades. This was only the latest round. The protesters here and around the country are calling for a comprehensive plan rationally to deal with immigration.
Ironically, the hostility to immigrants from Mexico and from Central America comes at a time when net immigration has been negative for many years. Farmers in Santa Barbara County had to leave millions of dollars of crops to rot in the fields due to a lack of farm labor.
Statistically, immigrant workers are far less likely to commit crimes or need public assistance than those born here.
After the 9/11 attacks, border security was increased. This had the counter-productive effect of causing more immigrant workers to remain in the US. When there was less border security, workers would come to the US for a limited time to earn money, then return home to their families.
The refugees at the border now are seeking asylum from brutal conditions in their home countries. The tiny country of Jordan has graciously accepted over a million refugees from war-torn Syria. The US in recent years has one of the lowest rates of refugee acceptance in the world.
It is also ironic that the brutal conditions these refugees are fleeing are in large part a creation of past US policy. When Reagan was president, he waged brutal wars against the civilian populations of El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. He effectively took over Honduras as a military base of operations for these actions, destroying civilian government in that country.
Hundreds of thousands fled those countries to come to the US in the 1980s. As conditions improved, many did return. But they brought some bad habits with them that they learned while they were in the US. Many of the brutal gangs of El Salvador actually began with Salvadorans who had been living in Los Angeles and returned home.
The solution is not just more humane treatment of refugees and immigrants. And not just rational immigration reform. We also need a foreign policy based on human rights and development, not on the short term self interest of certain powerful groups in the US.
Here are some of the other scenes and signs at the rally
After the rally at the Art Museum, the crowd marched to the Courthouse