VERMILION — Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez issued a call to action to the attendees of the Immigration Justice Rally on Sunday afternoon.
“We must create a mass movement for a better response,” the co-director of the InterReligious Task Force on Central America and Colombia in Cleveland said. “We are doing what we can with very little, but we can do so much more.”
She and several others spoke at the rally at United Church of Christ Congregational. The church, in partnership with Brownhelm United Church of Christ, welcomed community members to stand in solidarity against the government’s separation of immigrant families.
UCC Congregational Pastor David Zerby and Brownhelm UCC Pastor Joyce Schroer recently met over coffee and discussed the issue. They then decided to do something about it and organized Sunday’s rally, which came a day after thousands demonstrated against immigration policy across the country.
Victor Leandry, director of El Centro de Servicios Sociales in Lorain, said the immigration system is broken. He said he understands the borders need to be secured, “but separating families is not the solution.”
Stonebraker-Martinez told the crowd that people need to stop seeing undocumented immigrants as criminals and more as refugees. She said many families crossing the border are fleeing dangerous situations in Central and South America. More than just accepting asylum seekers, she said, the U.S. has a responsibility to establish peace and democracy.
Janet Garrett, Democratic candidate for Ohio’s 4th Congressional District seat held by Republican Jim Jordan, also spoke at the rally. She told the crowd she had a speech prepared, but instead threw it out to speak from the heart.
Garrett recalled hearing about the arrest of more than 100 undocumented workers from two locations of Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in early June. At a news conference about the raid with El Centro, she said, she listened to a little girl of a family in hiding, talking through her tears. She said she couldn’t help but think of Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis with her family.
“This, to me, represents a failure of leadership and a failure of empathy,” she said.
After the rally, attendees were invited to go downstairs where they could continue discussions and donate to various immigration organizations.
Joan Skelley-Watts, of Vermilion, came to the event with a sign declaring “This is not my America Families belong together.” Skelley-Watts, who last served as a pastor of UCC Congregational, said she came to the rally because of the indecency of separating families.
“It breaks my heart to see what we’re doing to people out there,” she said. “This zero tolerance means that we’re not even listening to people’s stories.”
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