KINGSTON — As Washington State Patrol troopers handed out boarding slips at the Kingston ferry crossing Sunday, citizens demonstrating against President Donald Trump’s forced separation illegal immigrant families were assured the attention of many commuters.
The Kingston demonstration followed a similar gathering in Bremerton, where about 300 people gathered at Evergreen Park’s 9/11 memorial on Saturday. The protests have come on the heels of a zero tolerance immigration policy implemented by the White House to prosecute all individuals who enter the country illegally. As a result, children who cross the border with their parents are separated from their parents.
During a six-week period in April and May, nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families. As of June 20, the Department of Health and Human Services reported that it has 2,053 separated minors in its care, according to numbers on its website.
Demonstrator Dick Roemer said the Kingston gathering was not the first time that he had been moved to action lately.
“A lot of lines have been crossed, and this is not my first time on the street,” Roemer said. “Certainly separating children from their parents is crossing a line, just the latest one.”
Roemer said he wanted those passing by “to realize that we have a lot in common. I want them to realize that the situation is not hopeless and there are people showing their dissatisfaction with the administration, and I encourage them to do the same.”
At several points throughout the demonstration, a voice from inside a passing vehicle shouted, “Vote Trump.” This often elicited smiles and head shakes from the members.
For the most part, the shouts coming from the steady stream of weekend commuters were words of encouragement and came with a thumbs-up raised outside their window.
One of the demonstrators, Ruth Westergaard, explained her concern that the separation of families may have lasting effects on the children being separated. According to a joint study between Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have been linked to risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, low life potential and early death.
“These are children that are going to be experiencing those [ACEs], and I’m really concerned about that and what it means for their futures,” Westergaard said. “There are a lot of children who are going to be challenged in all parts of the world by ACEs, but we know about these kids and we know that they will be.”
On the sidewalk Renee Overath held a sign toward the road which read, “families belong together” and when asked what she wanted folks who read it to take away, Overath said, “I want them to understand the trauma that young children endure when they’re separated from their parents. There’s no humanity. I wish that the Trump family would extend the same empathy to immigrants that their families experienced. His wife, his mother, so many of us are children of immigrants and grandchildren of immigrants and we got to live the American dream. To deny it and to separate these families is just criminal in my opinion.”
Tad Parrington was one of the faces in the gathering of some 25 demonstrators. Parrington explained that he “didn’t think the demonstration would make any radical change,” but the importance, he added, is in ensuring that the issues remained at the forefront of people’s minds.
“You just have to keep presenting the situation and keep the word up. Whether there will be changes, I don’t know,” Parrington said. “People have to get active locally, then just keep pounding away on what’s happening, try to make these changes.”
—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.