The Peoria chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union organized Saturday’s protest at the Peoria federal courthouse that hundreds attended to show their opposition to the Trump Administration practice of family separation for illegal immigrants.
"It’s appalling it’s against all international laws and norms and we have to do something. Peoria is standing up for that for the right of immigrant people who are defenseless," Peoria resident Lawrence Maushard said.
The protest also served as a push for the proposed welcoming-city ordinance.
"We have over 2700 undocumented immigrants that live in Peoria. We have thousands more that are here illegally. Peoria has always been a haven for people that have been leaving oppression and poverty to come and make a better life and we want to make our city a city where everyone can feel welcome," ACLU member Anthony Walraven said.
The separation of families hit close to home for many Peoria residents who are immigrants like Anju Patel-O’Connor who immigrated with her family from India in the 1970s.
"I love America and I want other people to enjoy being immigrants here too, that’s what makes this world the best place. So please think about saving the kids and families together that is what imprint we shouldn’t keep people a part," Patel-O’Connor said.
The protest was an extension of national protests happening in cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Protesters said the zero tolerance policy is history repeating itself.
"The amount of power that we have given ICE is going to be something that in 50 years we’re going to look back in this country and think was a scandal, in the same way we think interning the Japanese was a scandal in World War II and the same way we think the treatment of Native Americans is scandalous now," Walraven said.
Keeping families united is the message protesters hope the administration received.
"Public pressure made him temporarily stop or modify that separation policy, so it works. The American people of good heart have got to come to the streets, put pressure on their elected representatives and get in the streets, show them that we are pissed," Maushard said.
Protesters also called for the abolishment of ICE because they feel it would help bring families together and prevent future separations.
President Trump did sign an executive order meant to reverse the family-separation policy, but as of a few days ago there were more than 2000 children not yet reunited with their families.