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Joliet rally to protest family separations at border

It will be a lesson in democracy Saturday for those in Joliet looking to protest Donald Trump and his administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, a measure rolled out in April that seeks to prosecute everyone suspected of crossing the border illegally and those seeking asylum.

A rally in support of keeping families together is planned for Chicago Street Plaza.

The event is being hosted by various organizations, including Latinos for Joliet, Will County Progressives, Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project and more. It will feature prayer, speeches and preaching on the gospel and humanitarian issues.

Richard Rodriguez, chairman of Latinos for Joliet and an event organizer, said they are trying to create greater awareness and have a local effect.

“We’re hopeful we can get the word out,” he said.

About a week ago, the groups started planning to hold the rally. They took to social media and distributed 1,500 flyers.

As of Wednesday, June 27, the Facebook event page shows that 99 people are going and 353 are interested.

Rodriguez said a coalition of faith-based leaders from all across the area for every denomination is expected to be present for the rally.

Among the elected officials and religious leaders confirmed to be at the event are Bishop Daniel Conlon, Pastor Herbert Brooks, Jr., State Rep. Natalie Manley, Will County Board Member Denise Winfrey and Joliet Councilwoman Bettye Gavin.

“This is an open call to elected officials that want to show their support for human rights, dignity, and immigrant and refugee rights,” Rodriguez said.

Similar protests will take place all across the nation this Saturday.

Suzanna Ibarra, chairwoman for Will County Progressives and an event organizer, said the separation of families at the border is a call to action for many.

“We believe in the rights of immigrants,” she said. “We stand and defend immigrants. The thing is that separating children from parents is heartbreaking, especially in a foreign country.”

Ibarra said the issue hits especially close to home for her.

“My grandparents came from Italy,” she said. “They had no dime in their pockets. I talked to my parents about it. They were children [at the time]. This country was accepting and made a way for everyone.”

Ibarra said when she heard the news that Donald Trump had signed an executive order, she was hurt knowing that some families remain separated.

“If we take to the streets and show our displeasure, we’ll make some sort of roar all over to make it known to senators in Congress that the same old same is not okay,” she said. “You may have power, but we have numbers.”

Brooks said as a pastor, God ordains families to stay together and that papers shouldn’t matter.

Brooks is also minority leader for the Will County Board. He said as an elected official, he stands in solidarity with those who are hurt by the separation of families at the border.

“I believe it ought to not be about separating families,” he said. “I’m glad the president did the executive order, but the damage is done. Ripping families apart is nothing we should stand for.”