Father’s Day protests decry immigration practices for separating families

CHICAGO — Families gathered at Lincoln United Methodist Church in Pilsen Sunday to protest immigration policies they blame for separating children from their fathers at the border and across the country.

Hugo Velasco entered the country illegally with his brother at 14, and was deported to Mexico after a traffic stop for an expired license plate six years ago. In Chicago Sunday, Velasco's daughter Mahalea called him via FaceTime as she joined the protests. She says she was only five when he was deported.

"We suffer from loneliness. We suffer from sadness. Most of the time I cry a lot for my father, and I cry every single day," Velasco said.

Mahalea’s mother Cecilia was born in Chicago, and is now raising five children on her own. While their family has been separated, she says it was different than the experience of the families divided recently at the border under the Trump administration.

"I can’t even fathom or conceive that they’re tearing little children away from their parents, but I kind of already know cause their dad was ripped apart from our family," Cecilia Garcia said.

Alderman Danny Solis (25th ward) is introducing a resolution to the Chicago City Council to keep families together. He says it is urgent to pass the measure, which will be introduced June 27, calling the practice of dividing children from their families "cruel" and "inhumane."

"What’s happening right now under this administration. This is the worst," Ald. Solis said Sunday. "He uses it as a strategy to negotiate, to put pressure, and you’re crossing the line when you do that."

Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) also spoke to the families and fathers, urging them to cherish these moments and these days of being together. He says was the first one to hold his daughter when she was born.

"To think somebody wants to rip her away from me, when I was the first one to hold her," Rep. Gutierrez said.

Mayor Emanuel released a statement criticizing the Trump administration's practices as well Sunday, saying in part: “separating children from their parents is unconscionable, un-American and inhumane. This is a moral stain on the soul of our nation.”