Arlington Heights, Elgin, other suburbs join national Families Belong Together rallies
Protesters against President Donald Trump's immigration policies gathered in Arlington Heights, Elgin and other suburbs as part of Saturday's nationwide Families Belong Together rallies.
At least 700 protesters with a decidedly anti-Trump sentiment filled much of North School Park in Arlington Heights to hear speakers including Democratic U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg.
"Today, we have gathered -- like thousands and thousands of people and thousands of communities -- to reaffirm our true soul as a country," Krishnamoorthi said. "A country where families belong together. The Trump administration says it's separating (undocumented) families and detaining them as a policy of zero tolerance. I don't believe in that."
In Elgin, at least 150 protesters denounced the Trump administration's southwestern border immigration policy as they rallied along Kimball Avenue. Ted and Erin Jackle of South Elgin brought their 7-year-old twins Evelyn and Charlotte to their first protest.
"I want them to understand what it means to be active," Erin Jackle said.
Amid criticism from Democrats and Republicans, Trump issued an executive order to stop the separation of families and said parents and children instead will be detained together. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said many children were brought to the U.S. border by violent gang members looking to enter illegally from Mexico.
Protesters in the suburbs and across the country Saturday generally demanded the Trump administration halt family separations and detentions, and reunite children and their parents and drop the zero-tolerance policy. There also were calls for the protesters to vote in November.
In Arlington Heights, the crowd gathered at village hall and then chanted and marched to North School Park. Arlington Heights-based V.O.C.A.L., which stands for Voices of Community, Acceptance and Love, collaborated on the protest with We the People of the Mount Prospect Area, Move On and other organizations.
Police along the Arlington Heights Road route stopped traffic when necessary to ensure safe passage for the protesters to North School Park, where they held signs such as "Deport Trump" and "Make America Kind Again." Chants included, "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here."
Another speaker at the Arlington Heights rally was Ania Figueroa, principal of Forest Elementary School in Des Plaines. With her young daughter next to her at the lectern, Figueroa talked about being lucky in flying with her family to the United States from Chile in 1992 and staying as an undocumented immigrant, eventually gaining citizenship.
"What's happening to the families on the southern border is inconceivable," Figueroa said. "The impacts the separations have on children, I can't even imagine."
No counterprotesters were seen in or around North School Park. One man driving south on Arlington Heights Road yelled "It's America. Go Donald Trump!" before the crowd left village hall for the park.
Many protesters held signs in Elgin as well. Honking horns and cheers from people driving past the Kimball Avenue rally punctuated speeches by members of groups including Progressives for Kane County, Occupy Elgin, Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice, and Planned Parenthood.
Siblings Diego and Amanda Vega of Elgin said they have been protesting U.S. immigration policy since 2006.
At one time, undocumented immigrants seeing refuge in the United States were nameless and faceless. If they were deported, no one cared, said Diego Vega, 30.
"Now there's a face to the issue," added Amanda, 34.
Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said the rally sent a message to immigrants in his city that their fellow residents don't agree with the government's policy and will stand with them.
"On a hot day to see all these people, it says a lot for our community. It says a lot for America," Kaptain said.
Elgin attorney and speaker Junaid Afeef, 48, said the large turnout means more people are hearing their message.
"I want to reach the hearts and minds of people in my community and change hearts and minds (so that) people stand side by side with the disenfranchised and the oppressed," said Afeef, who immigrated from India when he was 4.
Among other suburban Families Belong Together protests were ones in Barrington and Downers Grove. And thousands attended a rally in downtown Chicago.