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Texas Protesters March to Federal Courthouse Where Migrants Are Being Prosecuted in Mass Trials

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Thursday’s Families Belong Together rally at the federal courthouse in Brownsville, Texas, culminated with people marching across the street to the federal courthouse, where migrants apprehended under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy have been prosecuted in mass trials.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Brownsville, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Behind me, the border wall, that stretches, in sections, all the way through California. This Rio Grande Valley is the epicenter of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that’s led to the forcible separation of more than 2,000 children from their parents.

Thursday’s Families Belong Together rally at the federal courthouse here in Brownsville culminated with people marching across the street to the federal courthouse, where migrants apprehended under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy have been prosecuted in mass trials. I was there to document the action, along with the Democracy Now! team, along with Democracy Now!’s news fellow Libby Rainey.

PROTESTERS: ¡Sí se puede! ¡Sí se puede! ¡Sí se puede! ¡Sí se puede! ¡Sí se puede!

AMY GOODMAN: The rally has just ended, and people are walking forward to the courthouse. This is the courthouse in Brownsville, right near the Texas-Mexico border.

REV. SEKINAH HAMLIN: Reverend Sekinah Hamlin of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative. We must disrupt this system, a system of racism, a system of hatred, that we have seen before in this country, but we will not stand for it to continue to go on again. We’ve done this to enslave Africans. We’ve done this to Native American peoples. We’ve done this to Japanese in interment camps. And we will not stand by and let this history of racism be relived again in our country. So we’re here because God calls us to be here, because we must stand up and say families belong in communities and not cages.

PROTESTERS: Shut it down! Shut it down! Shut it down! Shut it down!

MARIA BARRIOS: My name is Maria Barrios. I’m here, just like everyone else, to stand up for those who are less privileged than us and might not have those same rights in the United States. And we’re here to speak for them and speak up for them and also to speak up for the injustice of the “zero tolerance” policy and of the children they are separating from their families.

LIBBY RAINEY: And what are you hoping to do today, standing here right in front of the courthouse?

MARIA BARRIOS: I want some answers. I want to know if there’s anything that they plan on doing. I know a lot of these people are just following their orders, but so many bad things have happened in our history by people just following their orders.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us your name, where you’re from and why you’re out here today?

JARELL WILSON: My name is Jarell Wilson. I’m from Austin, Texas. And I’m out here because I’m witnessing injustice and oppression, and it’s my job, as a person of faith, to resist those things. Right now there are children being abused, and they are being taken advantage of by my government. And that does not sit well with me. And that does not sit well with my faith values. So I’m here to speak out against it.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, you’re lined up in front of the courthouse, ready to go into a hearing?



JARELL WILSON: I’m here because I think that we need to see the evil that’s taking place in our names and to make sure that we know what’s going on, so we can better educate the people in our communities and so we can better speak about these issues to the people around us and raise more awareness of the situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted the Bible, when laying out the “zero tolerance” policy separating children from their parents. As a religious person, your thoughts?

JARELL WILSON: My thoughts, first of all, is that Jeff Sessions took that verse out of context and then abused its purpose. But I would invite him to look at scripture in Leviticus chapter—I believe it’s 19, that speaks specifically about how we’re supposed to treat immigrants with dignity and with respect, because all of us have been wanderers in one way, shape or form, and we needed dignity and respect.

PROTESTERS: This is the people’s house! You cannot keep us out!

AMY GOODMAN: People who are at the Keep Families Together rally here in Brownsville have now walked forward to enter the federal courthouse here in Brownsville, where so many migrants have been taken, so many migrants who have been separated from their children. They’re demanding to go inside. Police are here, security of the Department of Homeland Security. We’ll see what happens.

JULIE MADRIGAL: My name is Julie Madrigal. We’re here to request access to the court hearings that are taking place. So, that’s the main reason we’re here. We want to be allowed into the hearings at this moment.

PROTESTERS: If they don’t get it, shut it down! If she don’t get it, shut it down! If he don’t get it, shut it down!

LIBBY RAINEY: The demonstrators are entering the courthouse. There is apparently one courtroom open, where they are going to bear witness. Can you tell us your full name and why you’re standing right outside? What’s happening?

JUANITA VALDEZ-COX: My name is Juanita Valdez-Cox. I’m with LUPE, La Unión del Pueblo Entero. And we’re about to enter the federal courthouse to see the treatment of the children and the parents, to see—because Trump has said that the parents can’t—they won’t be separating the children, but Trump also said that they shouldn’t even have court or lawyers or judges.

LIBBY RAINEY: OK. And with that, she entered the courtroom.

TIM EAKINS: My name is Tim Eakins, and I’m here supporting the ACLU. And we have formed a line to go into the courts, where they’re separating families, where they’re prosecuting people coming across the border. And we’re not going to turn a blind eye. We’re here. We’re going to show up. We’re going to show up all across the border, where the Trump administration is trying to create black sites, military bases. We’re not going to let them do that in secret. We have gotten about 20 people in so far. It’s a very small courtroom. And we’re going to keep forming lines and getting ready to fill these courts. There are people fleeing violence, fleeing all sorts of situations. And we need to do better than just having people stand up in mass and say, ”Culpable” or ”No culpable,” or “Guilty” or “Not guilty.” They deserve to be heard. We need to understand their cases, what is going on, all politics aside. That is what’s happening at the border—families in crisis, in extreme heat, in crisis, asking for help. And our question, as Americans, is: How are we going to show up?

PROTESTERS: ¡Sí se puede! ¡Sí se puede! ¡Sí se puede!

ALEJANDRA LOPEZ: My name is Alejandra Lopez. I’m from San Antonio, Texas. I’m a public school teacher in San Antonio. I teach second grade. I’m here because we are tired of the criminalization and prosecution of our brown brothers and sisters. As a second grade teacher, I know the trauma that is being inflicted on the children in detention. We’re here to say to stop the detention of immigrants and refugees that are coming to our country. We do not believe that any child, woman or man belongs in a cage. So, our brown and black children understand the repression that we are being faced. We have students who are scared for their families, students whose families do not have documents, who are scared that their mothers and fathers may leave to work and not come back, because they know that deportation is a possibility for them.

AMY GOODMAN: And tell me your name, where you’re from, why you’re here.

ARACELI MANRIQUEZ: Araceli Manriquez, also from San Antonio. I’m a teacher at Bonham Academy. I’m here because, like she said, this impacts our kids. And we want our kids to be social justice activists and not stand for things like this. And so, we, as teachers, have to model that. We won’t stand for things like this that are unjust.

AMY GOODMAN: And are your kids talking to you in the classroom?

ARACELI MANRIQUEZ: Absolutely. These kids are, you know, middle school age, and they know what’s going on. And some people won’t tell them, you know, that this is wrong. But it’s our job to show them, expose them to this, and that they know right from wrong and know that they shouldn’t take this.

AMY GOODMAN: Are they afraid of being taken away?

ARACELI MANRIQUEZ: I mean, like she said, yes, they are, and also their parents, their tías, their abuelitas, whatever. It’s a really sad thing to see, that kids can live in fear like this.

AMY GOODMAN: Your name and where you’re from? And what’s the banner you’re carrying?

IZAAK STANDRIDGE: Hi. I’m Izaak Standridge. I was a—I taught in Knoxville, Tennessee, just recently moved to San Antonio to join in the efforts. I’m a first grade teacher. I’ve taught the past three years. And I got into education because it’s one of the last remaining places where anybody can show up to the doorsteps and they’re accepted. And so, we—

AMY GOODMAN: You mean public school.

IZAAK STANDRIDGE: Public schools. Public schools are the last place where anybody can show up, and we let them in. And we need that to be modeled through the rest of our public entities. And so, until that happens, we’re going to stand out here and fight.

AMY GOODMAN: Your name and—

LUKE AMPHLETT: Luke Amphlett. I’m a public school teacher and a union organizer in San Antonio, Texas.

AMY GOODMAN: What grade do you teach?

LUKE AMPHLETT: I teach 11th and 12th grade social studies.

AMY GOODMAN: What are your kids saying?

LUKE AMPHLETT: My kids are saying that they’ve been living in fear since the decision—the election of Donald Trump happened, and continuing fear with the decisions that are coming out of the Supreme Court. And students are not coming to school. Students are suffering the trauma of this—their inability to escape the constant pressure of understanding that there are ICE raids happening, understanding that any run-in with the authorities or with the police can potentially lead to deportation. And we’ve come here today to say that all of our kids need to be supported. No one is illegal. And we’re here to protect all of our children.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re here also in the week of the Janus decision. You’re an organizer. Talk about what that means, for people who have never heard of Janus.

LUKE AMPHLETT: So, the Janus decision says that—effectively, it turns America into a “right to work” country, right? So it means that union dues, union organizing is crippled in a lot of the states. This is Texas. We’re already a “right to work” state. We’ve been fighting against it for years. But it’s a really obvious attempt by the right to disempower unions even further than they have been recently in the United States. What it means for us is we’ve got to fight. What it means for us is we have to go back to union organizing in our campuses, in our workplaces. The courts aren’t going to protect us right now. The legal system isn’t going to protect us. And we’ve got to fight in our workplaces, in the streets.

AMY GOODMAN: Your name, where you’re from, what grade you teach?

AUGUSTINE ORTIZ: My name is Augustine Ortiz. I’m from San Antonio, Texas. I teach, Mariachi, sixth grade through eighth grade, in San Antonio, Texas.

AMY GOODMAN: What are the kids saying?

AUGUSTINE ORTIZ: They’re afraid to come to school. They get nightmares at night that they’re going to—ICE is going to come into their homes and take them, take their parents, and they’re going to have to go live in a cage or in Mexico, where they, you know, know nothing of, that they were only there for maybe a year, maybe two.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you tell them?

AUGUSTINE ORTIZ: I tell them that we’re on their side and to pray to God and basically tell everybody you know about your situation, so we can get out, we can vote, so we can change laws, so we can take care of them, so they feel they don’t have to come in fear to school. They can learn. They can get their education.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think you can accomplish standing on the steps of the federal courthouse here in Brownsville?

AUGUSTINE ORTIZ: Well, maybe they’ll be watching TV, some of my students, and they’l see that we’re here to support them, that we do care. We just don’t show up for paychecks.

AMY GOODMAN: And your name, where you’re from?

CUAUHTEMOC MALCOLM TOREN: My name’s Cuauhtemoc Toren. I’m from San Antonio. I’m with the Young Democratic Socialists of America on my campus.

AMY GOODMAN: What campus?

CUAUHTEMOC MALCOLM TOREN: The University of Texas at San Antonio.

AMY GOODMAN: And why are you here on the courthouse steps?

CUAUHTEMOC MALCOLM TOREN: Here to protest against the detention of families and, overall, just the status of people being labeled illegal. My parents came here as immigrants. So—

AMY GOODMAN: From where?

CUAUHTEMOC MALCOLM TOREN: From Mexico. So, to see children not be given the opportunity that my parents had to fight for and had a hard time getting here for, to see them not achieve it and be put in these cages—right?—which is essentially just these camps, it’s heartbreaking. I see people from my community in those same positions. I see people from my family that could have been in those same positions. They were lucky. But right now, because of this current administration, it’s just—it’s heartbreaking.

AMY GOODMAN: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just won the Democratic primary in New York, beating out the fourth most powerful Democrat in the House. If she were to win in November, she’d be the youngest person ever, youngest woman ever to serve in the House.


AMY GOODMAN: What does her victory mean for you?

CUAUHTEMOC MALCOLM TOREN: It means that the youth, our push to the left, our both stance on socialism, on both stances like no human being illegal, abolishing ICE, they are mainstream now. She beat the fourth most powerful Democrat. That is a mainstream position now. Overnight, abolishing ICE is now over every news channel.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices of protest in Brownsville, Texas.

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