Opponents of the Trump administration's immigration policies packed Charlotte's First Ward Park Saturday night. The "End the War on Immigrant Families Vigil" was organized as part of nationwide "Keep Families Together" protests.
Charlotte’s protest had been scheduled for a few weeks, prompted by President Trump’s policy of separating parents and children crossing the border. Trump has since ended that policy, but many families still remain separated.
“These children are suffering. These parents are suffering. They belong together,” said participant Beth Anthony.
Arlene Berger was born in Puerto Rico. She came to the protest with her two children.
“We need to understand that we’re all human, and that we all should have the same rights,” said Berger.
Fourteen local groups organized the event, including Action NC, the Latin American Coalition and Comunidad Colectiva.
Hector Vaca of Action NC says he wants immigrant families stopped at the southern border to be allowed to apply for asylum outside of detention centers.
"They're here looking for a better life. A lot of these families are fleeing horrible conditions in their countries. They are fleeing violence (and) horrible economic conditions."
Immigration lawyer Zoila Velazquez with the local chapter of the ACLU agrees. She says placing families in detention is a problem she’s had with U.S. immigration policy for years, including under President Obama.
“I don’t think that that got enough attention, as the family separations issue [has],” says Velazquez.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Trump’s travel ban weighed on Charlotte native Maurice Falls. The ban bars travel from seven countries, most of them predominantly Muslim.
“This is just not how I have seen our nation. I believe we’re better when we’re opened up to the world and connected to other people,” said Falls.
The vigil ended with a candle-lighting and a moment of reflection.