Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Columbus office of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), on Tuesday, calling on him to either support or propose legislation banning the Trump administration’s policy of separating parents and children at the southern border.
Specifically, many protesters said they wanted Portman to support the Keep Families Together Act, which was proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). If voted into law, the act would ban most family separations. So far, it has support from every Senate Democrat, but no Senate Republicans.
“We’re here to say enough is enough,” said Mia Lewis, one of the protest’s organizers. “We have to stop this policy. This is not America. This is not what America represents. We’re better than this. We just simply cannot allow ourselves to let this be normalized and seem normal.”
Shortly before the demonstration began outside of Portman’s office, three mothers staged a sit-in inside his office.
Over FaceTime, all three said they would be willing to be arrested while urging the senator to immediately act on the administration’s policy.
“We see this as something that needs to be done immediately,” said Sara Lichtin Boyd. “These children are suffering every minute, every hour of the day. It’s not a time when you need a lot of finesse, you just need to take care of the problem.”
NBC4 watched as the women were led away from the office building, in police cruisers.
Earlier in the day, Portman released a statement on the separation policy:
“As I have said for the last several weeks, I oppose the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents. This is counter to our values. We can have strong border security without separating families at the border. They can be kept together and dealt with as a family unit.
“The administration’s policy will increase the number of unaccompanied minors. Based on the extensive oversight I’ve conducted as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), we know that HHS and DHS are not prepared to effectively deal with even more unaccompanied minors. This policy is taking children from the love and care that parents provide and putting them at risk of trafficking, abuse, and getting lost in the immigration system. I have taken the lead in exposing the inadequate practices at these agencies, practices that led to HHS turning several unaccompanied minors over to human traffickers under the previous administration. And I’ve taken the lead in pushing these agencies to put reforms in place that ensure unaccompanied minor children who come without parents are not trafficked or abused and make their court dates.
“The administration should change course immediately and use its executive authority to keep families together and expedite their cases. If those changes aren’t made, Congress should act quickly on a legislative solution to fix this problem. I’m working with my colleagues to develop a compassionate solution that upholds our immigration laws and keeps families together while their cases are being processed.”
A spokesperson for Portman’s office released a statement on the protest.
Our staff met with constituents at their request today to discuss immigration and reiterated what Rob has been saying for weeks. He believes that the administration should stop this practice of separating children from their parents at the border and keep families together. In addition,our staff took an extended amount of time to answer many other questions. Our office and the entire building closes at 6pm and, after being asked to leave, the building management took action.