For Weruche Uzoka George, a Nigerian immigrant, Thursday marked five years since she had been granted citizenship in the United States. She chose to celebrate the day alongside Sen. Chris Murphy, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont at a rally in Hartford to advocate for immigrant children to be reunited with their parents.
“These kids are going through trauma that will live with them a long time,” George said.
The rally was organized after reports that an estimated 2,300 children of immigrants had been separated from their parents because their parents were in the country illegally. Murphy spoke before a crowd of about 300 who gathered in front of the Charter Oak Health Center to rally against President Donald Trump’s policy of separating families who try to cross the U.S. border from Mexico.
Murphy said that Trump had backtracked on that policy when he signed an executive order Wednesday dictating that families who arrive at the border be detained together, rather than separately.
The senator said that measure is not enough.
“Let’s not get sucked into a moral vortex of thinking that something less than diabolically evil is acceptable,” Murphy said.
While most of the detained children are held near the border, several were sent or are in the process of being sent to Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office said Wednesday.
At least two children who had been separated from their parents at the southern border were placed with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and sent to Connecticut.
One of the children sent to Connecticut is being held in a shelter run by Noank Community Support Services in Groton, according to Regina Moller, the group’s director.
Moller did not disclose the child’s location but told The Courant that the shelter is a “safe, family-like environment.”
The organization is the only agency in the state that has a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services’ “Unaccompanied Alien Children” program. Noank Community Support received a three-year, $1.7 million grant in 2017 to shelter unaccompanied migrant children until caseworkers find them a relative or a sponsor.
According to Murphy, if Trump’s executive order stands, no more children who have been separated from their parents will be sent to Connecticut. However, children who arrive at the border unaccompanied by an adult could still be sent to the state.
Bronin urged the federal government to direct efforts toward reversing the policy completely. “We call for re-unification now,” Bronin said. “Every child should be reunited with their parents.”
Trump’s policies have been heavily criticized by Connecticut leaders. State representatives Joe Courtney, Elizabeth Esty, Rosa DeLauro and Jim Himes plan to travel to Texas Saturday to meet with families who had been separated, Courtney’s office said.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who had been slated to speak at the rally, was already en route to Texas, Murphy said.
Todd Hollister, 51, joined his wife and daughter at the rally to protest the separation of families. “I would love to know where the family values are in the GOP,” Hollister said. “This is not what we stand for.”