By Eric Bartl
ECM Editor Miriam Raftery also contributed to this report
July 3, 2018 (El Cajon) -- Over a hundred people marched down Main Street through downtown El Cajon Saturday, June 30, joining the chorus of “Families Belong Together” protesters from cities across the nation.
Their chants, “families belong together” and “let the children go," received affirmations from passersby. Drivers honked their horns. Workers from restaurants and barber shops stuck their heads through their front doors greeting the march with waves and thumbs up.
The protest came from the controversy over the separation of children from parents who cross the border illegally.
The group of protesters was composed of a variety of people; some sporting patriotic clothing and American flags; others sporting anarchist symbols. One elderly woman told me she is a political Independent attending a protest for the first time in her life.
El Cajon resident Phil Hatcher (photo right) learned about the protest on social media a half hour before it was scheduled to take place. A tall towering figure, he jumped right in and took his own initiative to give rallying speeches to the crowd.
After the march ended I asked Hatcher what he was demonstrating for.
“Compassion. There comes a point where whatever side of the political fence you’re on, whatever your views are - compassion. Some people might be religious and more conservative, but Jesus said to help the poor and help the stranger. There’s no excuse when people are looking for help.”
He added, “I think it’s a religious thing, but it’s also just a human thing. Everybody knows the Golden Rule, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ I can empathize. If my family were being torn apart and if I was in danger and risked my life to go to a safe place, I would hope for a little compassion. Maybe a yes, maybe a no, but not imprisonment. Whether you believe in Adam and Eve or whether you believe in Lucy in Africa, as humans we all came from the same place and should have compassion on one another.”
Ten days before the El Cajon protest, President Trump signed an executive order to end family separation. CNN reported President Trump saying, “I consider it to be a very important executive order. It's about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure we have a very powerful, very strong border.”
But CNN reports today that with a court-ordered deadline looming to reunite separated families, the Trump administration has stopped releasing information on separated families. The last numbers released on June 26 indicated that of 2,053 children separated from parents, 2,047 of them were still separated.
I asked Hatcher why people are still protesting the separation of children ten days after the President said he would put an end to it.
Hatcher responded, “Let’s go back to the Bible because our administration likes to use the Bible.” He pointed to a parable Jesus told in Matthew 21:28-31 that contrasted a person’s words and actions. Hatcher says he heard news reports that children are still being separated.
Another issue facing the Trump administration is that a prior court order during the Obama administration limits the number of days that children may be detained with parents in detention centers. The Trump administration has said it plans to ask a court to extend that time period, potentially keeping children detained with parents for months pending hearings, 10 News reports.
The American Bar Association reveals that the Trump administration is now sending children as young as 3 years of age into immigration courts to represent themselves, without legal counsel or parents, a fact confirmed by the Washington Post, which cites a senior Justice Department official defending the practice. The American Civil Liberties Union is arguing that the practice is unconstitutional.
I asked Hatcher about protesters chanting, “Let the children go!” and whether they want the children to be let go by themselves in the streets of San Diego or Tijuana.
“I thought about that myself,” he said, “and I started chanting, ‘Let the families go,’ instead.”
He concluded, “I think it’s good that the President said we should stop this. But we need action to go along with it. We need good minds with opposing views to get together and hammer out good compassionate solutions. But I don’t think that’s the game we’re playing right now.”