Hundreds of people gathered in front of Orlando City Hall Saturday afternoon to protest the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We need to let the world know that we are not in favor of hate and that we are here to protect those that don’t have a voice,” said Mabel Valdivara, a 42-year-old refugee from Cuba. Valdivara came to the United States on the Mariel Harbor boat in 1980 as part of a mass emigration from Cuba known as the Mariel boatlift. The first group of 125,000 refugees made it to Florida the day after it launched, according to the History Channel.
The “Families Belong Together” rally was a part of a nationwide protest of President Donald Trump’s administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy. The event’s Facebook page says participants rallied “to demand that Marco Rubio and other elected officials put people before party.” Organizers of the event did not respond to the Focus’ requests for comment.
The event page says participants urged Rubio to support the “Families Belong Together Act.” The act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in June, prohibits authorities from separating children younger than 18 from their parents, according to Congress.gov.
A letter from the Office of the Attorney General says U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy in April. It allowed authorities to detain and prosecute adults caught at the border, separating them from any children.
People of all ages perched outside of City Hall for a little over an hour despite the heavy rain.
“I’m here to support the kids that are left in cages and that are separated from their families because they should be united with their families,” 14-year-old Ethan Garcia-Barbon said.
Nancy Goodwin came to the rally with her 85-year-old father, Basil Harris.
“We need to fight for the soul of our country,” Goodwin said. “We were built on immigrants and that’s what it’s all about. That’s why we’re here.”