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Morgan Hill
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September 26, 2022

Locals partake in ‘Families Belong Together’ rally

“It can be seen. It can be heard. The community is here. We are here for families. We are here for immigrants. The children should not be separated from their parents.”
Those words of Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers President and local activist Gemma Abels were repeated by hundreds of South County residents in attendance June 30 for the local “Families Belong Together” march.
Participants, many with hand-made signs denouncing the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy of separating children from their parents while being detained at the border, gathered outside the Morgan Hill Community and Cultural Center at the Morgan Hill Downtown Amphitheater before marching to the local U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Vineyard Court.
The march and rally were organized by members of the local grassroots movement, Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), along with other regional organizations, including Community Agency for Resources, Advocacy and Services (CARAS).
“SURJ is about supporting marginalized groups in our community,” explained Jordan Rosenfeld, a lead organizer for the local group that has demonstrated against immigration and gun control policies on numerous occasions since President Donald Trump took office in 2017. “We will speak out about injustices we see and hopefully send a message to our leaders that we won’t tolerate what we perceive as cruel policy.”
Morgan Hill resident Ann Horner was among the crowd of activists at the Saturday morning march. Horner held a sign that read, “Stop ICE and Trump Crimes Against Humanity” and “Sane People Do Not Separate Kids and Parents,” with images of a broken heart and the Statue of Liberty.
“The message is that it’s no time to sit around,” Horner said. “We have to act as if these children are our own, because they are.”
Retired educator and Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer Adam Escoto, along with his wife Laura Escoto, a pioneer in finding safety for domestic violence victims, helped organize the June 30 march. Adam Escoto said recent images of children being separated from their families have been painful to see and are personal to him since many of his former students were of immigrant families. In addition, he shared that through CASA he was assigned to two El Salvadoran boys granted asylum four years ago.
“It’s extremely important to show my support on behalf of immigrant families and also be here with my neighbors,” said Adam Escoto, uplifted by the Morgan Hill community’s show of support for the marginalized groups being impacted.
“When good people do nothing, evil flourishes. When good people do something, hopefully, we can change the climate,” added Laura Escoto of why residents need to stay active.
Saturday’s 200-plus turnout, which brought out people of various backgrounds, social status and ethnicities, proved to Morgan Hill resident Efrain Antonio Reyes that “in this country, there are more good people than bad.”
Longtime Morgan Hill resident John Varela, a former city mayor and now a Santa Clara Valley Water District Director, shared that his family immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. Like many of those in attendance Saturday, he believed it was wrong to separate children from their parents and to label them as criminals.
“The pictures I see are of families, not criminals,” said Varela, who has lived in Morgan Hill for more than four decades. “I’m not surprised (with how many people showed up)….We’re all immigrants in this country, with the exception of Native Americans.”
After listening to a panel of speakers at the amphitheater, participants lined up and headed south down Church Street until they reached the ICE office. Once they arrived, organizers introduced additional speakers sharing their thoughts and experiences on immigration-related issues.
The local “Families Belong Together” rally was one of many similar marches and protests by the same name organized in cities throughout the country June 30.

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