About 60 cities and towns across the country are expected to participate, said Anna Tarkov, communications director for Families Belong Together.
“It is unconscionable that the U.S. government is actively tearing apart immigrant families,” the statement said. “This is violent abuse and as concerned citizens and voters we state, unequivocally, that this is not in line with American values.”
Activist Melissa Byrne posted photos and video to Twitter showing protesters at Philadelphia’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office Thursday afternoon. Many held signs, some saying, “Separating Families Is Cruel Torture” and “Keep Families Together.”
“Power to the people, no one is illegal!” protesters chanted in the video. “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!”
The rallies come as NBC News was granted access to a facility in Brownsville, Texas, housing children separated from their parents as well as unaccompanied minors who came to the U.S. alone.
In an interview, Tarkov said supporters have flooded the group’s in-boxes with questions on what they can do to challenge the policy.
“The outrage and the desperation is through the roof,” she said.
Last month,Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy seeking to criminally prosecute people who cross the border illegally, a misdemeanor. When parents are charged, they end up in jail, and their children are separated from them and rendered unaccompanied. Sessions has looked to deter migrants from the border and has said the administration wants to crack down on potential human trafficking and smuggling.
Many of the rallies were planned for Thursday afternoon, but for those who cannot attend, Tarkov said,the group is hosting a virtual event where supporters can sign petitions, contact elected officials and donate to organizations that work to protect children separated from their families by immigration authorities.
St. Louis kicked off its demonstration at 11 a.m CT (noon ET), with a march, followed by a rally and a call to action.