At noon on Tuesday, July 2, about three dozen Corvallis residents gathered in front of the Benton County Courthouse to protest the Trump administration’s policy of using detention camps to hold immigrants seeking lawful asylum and separate them from their children, some as young as four months old.
Many of these immigrants are legally entitled to ask for asylum in the U.S., and have broken no laws by presenting themselves at the U.S.-Mexico border. But they are being detained indefinitely by U.S. Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection in order to deter more migrants from coming to the U.S.
Facilities designed to accommodate small numbers of suspected felons awaiting arraignment have suddenly become crowded with families. Services are strained beyond the breaking point, and conditions, especially those for the children, keep getting worse.
Rallies and marches were held all across the country, encouraged by the group Families Belong Together. Taryn Bazurto, Vice Chair 2 of the Benton County Democratic Party, was a co-host of the event, and the first person on the scene.
“Immigrants and refugees did not cause the problems facing the American people.” Bazurto said. “We should welcome all immigrants – that’s what America is all about.”
Newly-elected Corvallis School Board member Brandy Fortson added, “This came about because it can no longer be just one voice screaming.”
Most signals from passing vehicles were encouraging, with brief honks and peace signs frequent. Occasionally, however, someone flashed a single finger.
Signs bore messages such as “Kids Are Not Pawns”, “Never Again Is Now”, “We’re All Immigrants”, and “Don’t Look Away”. Some bore pictorial messages: one showed a heart over the state of Oregon and the word “Immigrants”. Another showed Joseph and Mary looking for a safe place to rest, with a fetal Jesus thinking, “No ICE”.
At times chants broke out, including, “Close the Camps”, “Families Belong Together” and “Say It Loud And Say It Clear / Refugees Are Welcome Here.”
A man who asked to be identified only as Fernando, attending with his wife and child, said, “This is a sad time in history. I’m glad I’m on the right side of it, anyway.”
“We’ve got concentration camps on our own soil. Again.” said Mark Harvey, “This is the wealthiest nation on Earth. There’s absolutely no reason to be maintaining these camps.”
“All people deserve to be treated well.” said Carol Hennessy, “All people.”
A woman who asked not to be identified said, “I’m almost sixty years old and I can’t believe I have to do this.”
Ms. Charlie Harris, attending with her husband Montana and son Juniper, said, “We as a family feel that family separation is absolutely immoral. Water, diapers, showers, everything that an American family can expect, is a human right.”
“Space”, Montana added, to which Charlie nodded.
At one point, some of the protesters stepped off the sidewalk to block one lane of 4th Street, calling it an act of “civil disobedience.” Others said it was “not a good idea”, but one of those who went onto the street said, “Sometimes you have to be a little bit rude.” Although they only blocked one lane, Corvallis Police officers soon arrived and politely asked protesters to get back on the sidewalk, which they did. The two groups thanked one another for their understanding.
There was no official time for the rally to end, but most of the people in attendance had left by 1:00 PM. But before the crowd dispersed, Caron Klopping observed, “When I was in middle school, I lived next door to a woman who lived in Germany during the war. I asked her how it all happened and she said, ‘I didn’t believe it was happening. We didn’t want to believe’.”
by John M. Burt