Nearly 100 faith leaders from 15 different states prayed and protested Tuesday outside the Nogales Border Patrol Station, where they decried the separation of migrant families and what they characterized as the militarization of the border.
“We believe in welcoming our neighbor, loving our neighbor as ourselves and welcoming the sojourner in our midst and so that’s why we’re out here today,” said the Rev. Noel Andersen of Church World Service in Washington, D.C.
The protesters, representing the United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian and United Methodist churches, among others, came from as far away as Iowa, Ohio, Massachusetts and Maine, and as nearby as Arizona and New Mexico. They held signs bearing slogans such as “Revitalize, not militarize border communities,” “No more separating families” and “Reunite families now,” and Rev. Hannah Bonner of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Tucson led them in a chant of “All children are God’s children.”
On June 20, in the midst of fierce public outcry, President Trump signed an executive order to stop his administration’s policy of separating children and parents caught illegally crossing the border. But Andersen said it’s still important to speak out against the practice.
“He only signed that because of the public pressure, and there’s still, the last I heard, around 500 families that aren’t reunited,” he said. “So we have to keep up that public pressure to reunite those families, but also to make sure similar policies don’t continue.”
Andersen added that the group was also protesting the administration’s zero-tolerance policy, which calls for criminal prosecution of all undocumented border-crossers, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ tightening of asylum laws to exclude most people fleeing domestic or gang violence.
Leaders at the Border Patrol Station came out of the compound’s gates to observe, but not interact, with the protesters gathered on the opposite side of the street. Kevin Hecht, deputy patrol agent in charge at station, said he was not authorized to comment on the protest.
Nogales Police Department call logs show that the Border Patrol called at 4:07 p.m. Tuesday to request assistance dealing with protesters who were blocking the roadway. However, a follow-up call from a responding NPD officer at 4:16 p.m. said the protesters were on the side of the road.