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Caravan leaves Ann Arbor for El Paso to protest Trump immigration policy

Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio

A caravan of about 20 people, clergy and laypeople, will get on the road in Ann Arbor early Monday morning, heading to El Paso, Texas, to call attention to what it calls continuing immigration abuses by the Trump administration.

The caravan was the idea of Rabbi Josh Whinston of Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor. Whinston spoke to a crowd of well-wishers at the temple Sunday night about why they're going.

"This summer our nation roared," says Whinston.  "We cried out after seeing pictures of screaming children being ripped from their mothers' arms. We were outraged after hearing stories of children lost by our government, of parents deported without understanding they may never see their children again."

Whinston says the Trump administration has led people to believe the family separation policy has been rescinded, but he says it's merely been supplanted by other means of keeping children from their families.

"When we hear that children are being held in Tornillo (Detention Center) 90 days or more, that's family separation," he says. "When children cross the border and have phone numbers and addresses memorized but are kept from being united from those people, that is family separation."

The caravan will make stops outside a county jail in Indiana, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has an agreement to detain undocumented immigrants, as well as a stop at Christ Church UCC in Maplewood, MO, which has been providing sanctuary for more than a year to an undocumented father of five, Alex Garcia. During the Obama administration, Garcia was given temporary stays of deportation so he could support his family, but that changed after President Trump was elected.

On Thursday, after the caravan has arrived in El Paso, it will travel to the border to witness what is happening to people seeking asylum there, volunteer at an overwhelmed shelter that is helping people being released by ICE, and finally stage a protest and vigil at Tornillo Detention Center, which is being upgraded to be able to house up to 3,800 unaccompanied minors.

Editor's note: Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton will be embedded with the caravan and will file reports on its activities in the coming days.  

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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