The Westlake Park event included leaders of immigrant-rights groups, labor unions and religious communities. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “I’m a lawyer, I can file lawsuits. But the people have to rise up as well.”
A few hundred people rallied against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies Sunday in Seattle, calling on the administration to reverse course on a range of initiatives that limit travel or refugee entry to the United States and threaten others with deportation.
The cause for the gathering was Wednesday’s looming enforcement of the Trump administration’s latest travel and refugee ban, but the event served as a venue for criticism of a range of White House policies.
Leaders of immigrant-rights groups, labor unions and religious communities took the stage to criticize plans to erect a wall on the southern U.S. border, the suspension of an Obama-era program that shielded from deportation people brought to the United States as children and excessive force by police officers against minority communities.
“This is a time for moral courage,” said Imam Jamal Rahman, a self-described Sufi Muslim interfaith minister. People should listen, he said, “to the voices of those who are marginalized, and those who are vulnerable.”
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The owner of one of those voices followed.
Paúl Quiñonez Figueroa, who came to the United States with his family from Mexico at the age of 7, is among the so-called Dreamers spared deportation by registering with the government under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Trump this past month moved to dismantle DACA, raising the prospect that the nearly 800,000 people who registered for the program could be targeted for deportation after their two-year permits expire.
Quiñonez Figueroa, a Gonzaga graduate who works as a legislative aide in Olympia, said he doesn’t plan to leave, or hide. “We refuse to be pushed back into the shadows,” he said.
The site of Sunday afternoon’s rally was Westlake Park, home to some of the initial protests against Trump’s first travel ban in January.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told the crowd Sunday that he would have liked to attend those marches, but instead was working with his staff on an ultimately successful legal challenge to the ban that would be filed the following day — the first of several judicial salvos Washington state’s leadership aimed at White House policies.
Ferguson, wearing a bright-red United Farm Workers union shirt, said courts and the legal system played an important role in checking executive power, but they weren’t the only avenue for protest.
“I’m a lawyer, I can file lawsuits,” he said. “But the people have to rise up as well.”
Anny Khan, one of the event’s organizers, co-founded Americans for Refugees & Immigrants in disgust with the treatment of Syrian refugees fleeing that country’s civil war.
She acknowledged that replicating the enthusiasm of this year’s first rallies against the travel ban was tough.
“It’s part of people not following the news,” Khan said. “People become desensitized, they don’t want to know about it.”
In comments before the ralliers went on a brief march through downtown Seattle, she asked the audience to change that, her voice cracking as she urged people to speak up for refugees and immigrants.
“We need to hear these stories,” she added. “We need to put a human picture to the suffering.”