Monday, July 09, 2018

Guest article: Why We March

Participants in the June 30 "Families Belong Together" march display signs expressing their concerns about immigration policies as they cross the Portage Lift Bridge from Houghton to Hancock. Organized by Anna Ehl, the author of this article, the local march was one of more than 700 marches across the country by people concerned about family separations at the borders of the U.S. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

By Anna Ehl*

Like most decent Americans, I was horrified and heartbroken to learn about the family separations taking place at the border. As a mother, I found myself lying awake at night, listening to the monitor of my daughter sleeping in the next room and weeping for the parents who were lying awake terrified they would never see their children again, weeping for the babies whose cries for their mothers and fathers would go unanswered.

Anna Ehl, organizer of the June 30 "Families Belong Together" march on the Portage Lift Bridge, is pictured here with her husband, Josh Loar, and their daughter. His sign, in Spanish, means "We are One Family." (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

Seeing the damage done to our community by this storm only drives home how easily this could be any one of us. We are all just one disaster away from being refugees -- dependent upon the kindness of neighbors, strangers, fellow humans for our survival and safety. It doesn't matter who you are or who you voted for or what you think about immigration -- we all have to know in our hearts that stealing children from their parents is wrong. If we must turn people away, we should send them away together as a family. No one deserves to lose their children for the crime of trying to protect them or give them a better life.

A young marcher proudly displays his sign during the march. Young and old marched together across the Lift Bridge from Houghton to Hancock and back. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

I was also deeply disturbed to learn that the Administration's proposed alternative to family separations is indefinite family detention. Especially in light of the fact that this administration ended the Family Case Management Program that allowed low-risk families to be released and monitored by social workers. It cost the government $36/day per family as opposed to the $775 per child that is being reported for these camps. The Family Case Management program had a 99 percent success rate in getting immigrants to attend every ICE check-in appointment and 100 percent attendance for every hearing in their cases.

Anita and Miguel Levy (in hats) show their opposition to present immigration policies. "People who participated in the march were appalled by the separation of families who are coming from Central American nations trying to get asylum in the United States," Anita told Keweenaw Now. "Asylum seekers are treated as criminals, young children are being separated from their parents and placed in detention centers. Many of the marchers opposed the United States government policy toward immigrants and supported the movement to defend the immigrants and shut down ICE." (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

So for the administration to pretend that these detentions are anything other than punitive is provably false. 100 percent of the families showed up for their immigration hearings -- so we know imprisonment isn't more effective for getting them into court. It cost less than 5 percent of what these detention centers are charging, so it's not about fiscal responsibility. It is purely about funneling money from public coffers into the private prisons that run these centers, and about punishing immigrants and asylum seekers for daring to hope for a better life in our country. It is against international treaties we have signed, it is immoral from a basic human standpoint, and we all have an obligation to speak out against it.**

So, I organized the march (on June 30) across the Portage Lift Bridge. I was pleased that we got nearly 100 people participating in the march. I know turnout would have been greater but many of our marchers got called in to the volunteer center or were still busy with cleanup efforts, which I support wholeheartedly. Many of our marchers also came directly from volunteering in the community or left directly to go back to volunteering.

Susan Burack of Hancock -- a longtime activist supporter of peace, justice and human rights -- told Keweenaw Now why she joined this march: "My heart breaks hearing about mothers and children being separated," she said. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

The great people of the Copper Country have hearts large enough to show compassion for their neighbors across the Keweenaw as well as their neighbors across the borders -- which is why most of us are active in both this cause and the cleanup in our own community. No one who comes to us seeking help in their time of need should have to suffer, which is why we march for our neighbors at the border and volunteer for our neighbors at home.

Inset photo: Guest author Anna Ehl, organizer of the local June 30 "Families Belong Together" march across the Portage Lift Bridge. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

More photos:

Nearly 100 people participated in the local June 30 "Families Belong Together" march across the Portage Lift Bridge. (Photo © and courtesy Allan Baker)

Participants in the June 30 march display signs to passing traffic on the Portage Lift Bridge. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

For many Americans this sign says it all. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

This marcher's sign is a reminder that many Copper Country residents are descendants of Finnish immigrants. (Photo © and courtesy Erin Smith)

These marchers remind us that many people consider separation of immigrant parents from their children a moral issue. (Photo © and courtesy Allan Baker)


* Guest author Anna Ehl is a local Copper Country resident.

** Click here for the June 24, 2018, NBC News article about the Family Case Management program. Click here for the June 20, 2018, NBC News article on this difference in cost.

See, on The Atlantic, photos of thousands who participated in "Families Belong Together" marches in cities and towns across the country on June 30, 2018.

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