Rallies in Auburn, Farmington, Augusta and other Maine cities are planned this weekend as part of a nationwide protest of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and to show support for immigrants.
Across the country, more than 600 events are being planned as part of Families Belong Together hosted by MoveOn.org.
“We want a humane and compassionate law to deal with the immigration situation,” said Eileen Liddy, a member the Western Mountains Peace Action Workshop and an organizer of the Farmington event. “What the president did was only temporary. You can only keep children in jails for 20 days and then you will have to separate them. It’s a stopgap thing.”
Liddy was referring to Trump’s executive order last week calling for an end to the separation of children and their parents who cross the southern U.S. border illegally and seeking to extend the number of days children can legally be kept in detention centers.
Families Belong Together rallies were organized amid public outcry over the increase of separations under Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy, which seeks to prosecute as many illegal border crossings as possible.
A federal judge Tuesday ordered the administration to reunite those who had been separated, but Liddy and other Families Belong Together organizers said they will still hold events Saturday.
“A federal judge ruled against Trump’s family separation policy — but we know the administration will fight back,” read a post on the event’s main website. “We have momentum and we cannot slow down now since the court ruling alone isn’t enough and could be overturned.
“Our mobilization, in over 600 locations around the country, and still growing, is critical to showing the widespread public demand for just immigration policies — because families belong together … and free!”
Advocates across Maine have said Trump’s policies, including the zero-tolerance policy and its implications for families, have sent a message that America is not a welcoming place for immigrants and has led to an increase in fear and confusion, including among asylum-seekers.
Immigration reform has also been the subject of recent attention in Waterville after Lexius St. Martin, a Haitian who came to the U.S. legally as a child refugee, was deported in February on a 2008 order for violating his immigration status with a drug trafficking conviction.
St. Martin’s story of how he fell in love with a Maine woman, turned his life around and started his own cleaning business prompted about 100 people to rally outside Waterville City Hall shortly before his deportation and call for more compassion in immigration cases.
His attorney, Evan Fisher, said this week he is working on an effort to have St. Martin, a father of three, pardoned and brought back to the U.S.
This weekend’s events are among a few that will take place across Maine, including in Bangor, Portland, Brunswick and Bath.
In Lewiston-Auburn, the event will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday on the Auburn side of the Longley Bridge.
The Farmington event will take place at 10 a.m. outside the Farmington Post Office.
In Augusta, organizer Alicia Barnes said the hope is to keep the event positive and focused on showing support for immigrants.
“We’re against what’s been happening, but to me protesting is kind of like complaining,” Barnes said. “We want to figure out ways we can actually change what’s happening and I think that’s where these rallies are useful. It’s a way of getting people together who are on the same page but wouldn’t normally be discussing this stuff.”
In Brunswick it will be at 11 a.m. Saturday on the town mall, and on the same day and time in Bath in front of the Customs House on Front Street.
Participants in all rallies are being asked to wear white as a show of solidarity, though Liddy said people should still come even if they don’t have anything white to wear.
“We’re in the (2nd Congressional District) and our representative doesn’t respond well to anyone,” she said, referring to U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine. “We’d like to see more things like this in the 2nd District so he knows how widespread the opposition is to him going along with the current administration.”
The Augusta rally is planned for 11 a.m. at the Maine State House. Barnes said the timing was planned so people can also attend the Portland’s event at 3 p.m. at City Hall.
“I would encourage people to come and encourage them to be peaceful,” Liddy said. “Considering the incivility that’s been shown in the media, we want it to be peaceful and respectful to everybody.”
Lewiston-Auburn: 5 p.m. Saturday on the Auburn side of the Longley Bridge.
Farmington: 10 a.m. Saturday outside the Farmington Post Office.
Augusta: 11 a.m. Saturday at the State House.
Brunswick: 11 a.m. Saturday on the town mall.
Bath: 11 a.m. Saturday in front of the Customs House on Front Street.
Portland: 3 p.m. Saturday at City Hall.
The Rev. Carie Johnsen of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Augusta speaks at a rally about immigration June 7 in the State House Hall of Flags. Rallies in Augusta, Lewiston-Auburn, Farmington and other Maine cities this Saturday are part of a nationwide protest of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. (Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal)