Rally protests treatment of would-be immigrants
“Give me you tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses
yearning To breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless,
Tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my Lamp beside the
The Statue of Liberty proclaims the United States a home for those seeking freedom from political oppression and the opportunity for a better life. For many Americans those values were challenged when President Trump announced that a wall would be built on our southern border to keep immigrants out and when the Supreme Court supported his denial of entry by people from six Muslim nations.
Dismay at these measures mounted when the administration began to separate parents and their children as they sought asylum on the southern border. On June 30, thousands of Americans, finding this policy intolerable, took to the streets across the nation to stop the process. Bethlehem was the site of one of those demonstrations.
Roughly 300 protesters congregated outside city hall for a Local Families Belong Together Rally to express their opposition and hear others articulate theirs. The gathering was organized by Carolyn Roman, Michelle Telles and Chris Winner. As teachers with a love for children, Roman and Telles said they felt compelled to do something. Moreover, Roman commented that she is Mexican, “so for me, it’s personal.” After Roman led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance, Telles introduced the first of 10 speakers, who addressed the issue from a variety of perspectives - political, maternal and religious.
Joe Welsh, from the American Civil Liberties Union, deplored “kids being ripped from their mother’s arms while the powers that be turn a blind eye to human suffering,” but he also offered hope. He announced that the ACLU has won an injunction to stop the separation of families immediately and reunite parents and kids who were separated.
Dean Donaher, a Democratic candidate for the Pa. State House in the 138th Legislative District and a member of the Bethlehem Area School Board, declared that being born here doesn’t make you better than the people at the border.
“Every human being has the right to be free,” he said. After he finished speaking, the crowd honored his request to chant “No human being is illegal.”
Running for the U.S. House as a Libertarian in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, Tom Selfies conceded that “we probably disagree on some issues, but this is something we can come together on.” He lamented the “breakdown” in our current immigration system and said this is the reason he wants to win a seat in Congress.
Another speaker, Bobbi Butz, called herself “a privileged white American. I never had any of my three children taken away from me because I was born in this country…
“Today America is no longer a dream; it’s a violation of humanity... Kids need their parents; mothers need their children… I’m here to say enough!”
Sarah White, a recent Lehigh graduate, conceded that controlling the border is difficult with so many people seeking asylum. She believes that we should decriminalize the movement of people.
“If you are a U.S. citizen, protest,” she said. “You won’t be deported. Use your privilege to their advantage.”
Representing the “faith perspective,” the Rev. Samantha L. Drennan, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Macungie recalled that after Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to protect Jesus, Herod had all the children in Bethlehem under age 2 killed.
“Whatever your faith is,” she declared, “what is happening today is wrong.”
Michael Colon, a former student of Carolyn Roman, stressed the importance of voting, noting that he had won a seat on the Bethlehem City Council by seven votes. A few feet away was a table where people could register to vote.