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'Human rights atrocity is not the American way'

Zoe Greszler • Updated Jun 12, 2018 at 11:06 PM

More than 150 people gathered Monday at Norwalk’s Suhr Park for an immigration rally and protest of the detainment and pending deportation of 114 area garden center workers. 

Protesters of all ages and diversity gathered to show “no human is illegal,” as one sign said. The protest came in the wake of the “military-style” raid that took place June 5 at Corso’s Flower and Garden Center locations in Sandusky and Castalia, detaining parents and, in some cases, leaving local children without anyone to care for them.

Other signs on display included ones stating “Give my dad back,” “Keep families together,” “Te extrano me papa,” “Human rights atrocity is not the American way,” “We stand with migrants,” “Stop the fear,” and more.

Lynn Tramonte, director of the immigration reform group America's Voice Ohio, said she was proud of the diversity of the crowd that showed up to give their support.

“I’m blown away by this,” she said. “This is such a diverse crowd and the level of passion of the people that came out — it’s a lot more than we get in other (community protests) we have been to.”

The event’s Facebook Live page urged the community to seek a resolution rather than assign blame.

“Children were left in daycare and at school with no plan for their well-being,” the post said. “Our instincts may lead us to assign blame. ‘It’s the parents fault. It’s the employers fault. It’s the individuals fault for coming here illegally. It’s the traffickers fault.’

“There’s a lot of blame to go around, but one thing is clear: our immigration system is broken. It doesn’t serve our communities. It doesn’t serve our businesses. And it definitely doesn’t serve the millions of American citizens who have family and friends who are undocumented. This is not the way it has to be. Congress has the power to change our immigration laws so that they serve us. Change does not happen unless we make it happen."

One young speaker at the protest agreed. Juan Perez, 15, who lives in the Jefferson Street mobile home park “community,” said he felt the need to talk about his situation after his mother was taken from the Sandusky Corso’s. He also wanted to thank all who came in support Monday.

“I don’t mean to offend anyone, but I only really expected people like me, Latinos, to come today,” he said. “But it’s not. There are all sorts of people here today. Thank you so much everyone that came. The support means so much.” 

Perez, whose mother is being detained in Sandusky, said his father was deported to Mexico a few years ago, worked his way back to the states, but recently was located and received a court date that could lead to his deportation.

“It’s not just me; I have a 13-year-old brother and a 9-year-old sister,” he said. “If they get deported, we might have to go into foster care or be sent back to Mexico. ... Life in Mexico is hard.”

The boy said he misses his mother and said “it’s so hard” without her.

“I love her,” he said. “She’s my mother. I need her. I don’t want to lose my mom. It’s so hard.”

All at the protest were encouraged to consider ways they personally could help the children, families and other individuals effected by the raids, including calling local, state and national leaders and donating food and other items, especially diapers, formula and baby food, to local donation hubs such as St. Paul Church and Bienvenidos Templo Genesaret Norwalk, at 119 N. Pleasant St.

Monetary donations also are needed as families try to post bonds to release family members from detainment and to afford lawyers to help prevent deportation. 

Tramonte urged local businesses, clubs and organizations to consider supporting a specific family for a time as well.

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