"Families Belong Together" protest challenges Trump administration

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COLUMBIA - People of all ages and races came out for the "Families Belong Together" protest Saturday, decrying the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.

The protest was one of hundreds that took place around the country. Attendees came to support three main objectives: reuniting families separated at the border, ending family detention and stopping the Trump administration’s “zero humanity” immigration policy, as protesters called it.

José Caldera, a Columbia native and speaker at the event, said he came on behalf of his parents.

“I am son of immigrants that came over in the eighties and were beneficiaries of the family reunification policies of the United States,” he said.

Several protestors told KOMU 8 they were hoping to get the attention of Missouri lawmakers in order to effect change at the national level.

“I hope we send a message to those key policy makers that people care about this stuff, even if it doesn’t immediately impact their family, it impacts the standing of this country,” Caldera said.

On the morning of the protests, President Trump supported Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in a tweet.

Sheela Lal, an MU graduate and another speaker at the protest, said it’s important for the rest of country to see Missourians protesting the president.

“Even in small town mid-America, that we are still a community that welcomes refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers, people that are different than what white America thinks should exist,” she said.

Lal said it’s time for legislators to understand the positive impact immigrants have on the economy.

“If we sustain a diverse and vibrant economy throughout the country, no matter where you live, we need to take into account how immigrants are treated,” she said.

President Trump attributed the protests to the “radical Dems,” but both Lal and Caldera said the protest is supported by people across the political spectrum and should be treated as a nonpartisan issue.