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Brutal South Florida heat and humidity didn’t stop 300 or so demonstrators from gathering at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale Sunday to protest President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
From the now-ended practice of breaking up families caught crossing the border illegally, to the impending deportation of 300,000 migrants from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, to the very existence of U.S. immigration enforcement, the demonstrators noisily announced their opposition to practically every aspect of Trump’s immigration policy.
“No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!” they chanted in between speeches by U.S. Reps Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston), Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and other activists and immigrants.
Unlike Saturday, when thousands of protestors gathered at rallies all over the country, Sunday was mostly quiet — except for Trump himself, who unleashed a tweetstorm calling immigration an “invasion” that must be turned back with immediate deportations “with no judges or court cases.”
The demonstrators in Fort Lauderdale punctuated the speeches at the rally with cries of “shame on you” and “we’re still here.”
Many of those speaking complained bitterly about the confinement of detained immigrant children. Wasserman Schultz denounced the long delay by the federal government in letting her and Sen. Bill Nelson tour Homestead facilities where some 1,000 unaccompanied minors — including 70 separated from their families at the border — were being held.
She finally got into the facility on Saturday and found the children were “being treated well,” she said, then added: “It makes me wonder what it looked like on Tuesday.“
For his part, Deutch said that the government’s end to breaking up immigrant families was not enough — that the thousands of children separated from their parents must be swiftly reunited. “The administration should be working night and day to reunite the kids who have been taken with their parents,” he said. “We cannot allow them to get away with this any longer.”
“These are children, they are not at fault,” Wasserman Schultz agreed. “They should not be stripped away from their parents and held at bare-bones facilities … It’s disgusting. It’s despicable. It’s beyond un-American.”
The crowd lustily cheered all the speeches, though it was often difficult to hear them through the puny loudspeakers set up for the event. And they fought back against the scorching sun with shiny Mylar blankets handed out by one of the demonstrators, who said they were the same kind used by immigrant kids in detention camps.
Also in fashion: T-shirts that said “I really do care,” a play on the words written on the jacket Melania Trump was seen wearing Thursday on her way to visit migrants held at the border.
Many members of the crowd were immigrants themselves, including some with a highly personal stake in the immigration controversy. Scarlett Franblau, attending the protest with members of three generations of her family, said her brother came to the United States more than 20 years ago after Hurricane Mitch devastated Nicaragua and much of the rest of Central America.
But Trump has ended the so-called Temporary Protected Status under which Mitch refugees entered the United States, Franblau said, and he’ll have to leave by January 5. “It’s horrible,” she said. “My entire family is devastated. We have worked hard to unify our family. He’s going to be by himself in a country he is not used to anymore.”