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This report was modified at 11 am on June 22 to remove an incorrect reference. It was further modified at 4 pm June 22 to include new information regarding Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.
Local musician and music teacher Jim Allyn is a well-informed and generally soft-spoken individual. But when engaging him about the current administration’s zero tolerance policy on immigrants that has already separated more than 2,000 children from their parents and other family members, Mr Allyn’s mild-mannered demeanor transforms into passionate hard-charging advocacy.
“It’s actually very simple,” he explained to The Newtown Bee June 19, five days before a planned community rally on Main Street. “The deliberate infliction of this type of trauma on children is criminal. This is an assault on all that America stands for as a beacon of hope for people around the world.”
On Thursday morning, Mr Allyn said the Newtown rally is still happening despite the fact that President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order the previous day, rescinding the separation policy.
“We demand transparency to see the conditions under which toddlers, infants, and all children are being incarcerated and traumatized,” Mr Allyn said in a statement from rally organizers following the news of the executive order. “We demand to know their location! We demand to know exactly what provisions are being made for their health, special medical needs, and social service needs in the face of this traumatizing assault upon them by the executive branch of the US government. We demand that the executive order issued by the White House be made retroactive to cover all children and families affected thus far.”
The rally is set for Saturday, June 23, from 4 to 6 pm, on the steps in front of Edmond Town Hall, 45 Main Street. It is being co-organized by Mr Allyn with help from his daughter, Chaeli, along with residents Alex Villamil, and Bonnie Voegeli.
It will coincide with similar gatherings around the state and nation — with additional state rallies being promoted by a group called Action Together CT, a coalition of autonomous but allied chapters across the state of Connecticut standing indivisible in upholding progressive American values and resisting harmful and intolerant policies.
The organization’s goals are threefold:
1. Prevent enactment of laws or policies that are inconsistent with the true American values of equity, justice, and opportunity.
2. Build awareness of, empathy for, and involvement in social issues, including racial justice, LGBTQ equality, religious freedoms, and female autonomy and empowerment.
3. Increase civic and community participation.
Among the planned speakers at the Newtown Rally Saturday evening are: a representative from US Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty’s office, Reverend Matthew Crebbin, Dr John Woodall, Rabbi Shaul Praver, and Esam Boraey. The Rev Dr Jenny Montgomery of Trinity Episcopal Church will offer a prayer.
Rep Esty’s office notified The Bee Friday afternoon that she would not be attending the rally, as she is joining a delegation of federal officials traveling to Texas. Prior to her departure, Rep Esty issued the following statement regarding Wednesday’s executive order:
“The Executive Order issued by President Trump today fails to address the fact that keeping children in detention has the potential to do real and permanent harm to already vulnerable children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, keeping children locked up can cause them negative physical and emotional harm, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. What’s more, this Executive Order runs against a decades-old court-ordered prohibition against holding children in custody long term. Simply put, detention centers are no place for children, with or without their parents.
“The immigration bills that House Republicans are calling for votes tomorrow do nothing to resolve the appalling situation at the border and fail to fix our broken immigration system,” Rep Esty continued. “I am committed to working across the aisle with my colleagues in Congress to reach broader consensus on the full range of immigration issues including DACA, high skill visas, and agricultural visas. We must reach a bipartisan consensus that fully acknowledges and addresses these issues.”
On June 15, Rep Esty called on the Trump Administration and Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to end the cruel and inhumane practice of forcibly separating children from their parents at the border, even those seeking asylum, calling it “appalling” and that “we, as a nation, have a moral obligation to assist these families.”
A week earlier, Rep Esty, along with several of her colleagues, sent a letter to the chairman on the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, and its ranking member, urging them to take steps to limit the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to separate children from their parents absent evidence that the parent poses an immediate threat to the child’s safety.
Wear A White Ribbon
Mr Allyn, along with other organizers, is encouraging attendees to wear or display a white ribbon to symbolize the pure innocence of children being affected. Attendees can also bring a white ribbon to tie to a tree branch or street lamp to highlight the effort.
The rally will feature the creation of a community banner of multicolored handprints to show “our commitment to reach out and stop these appalling human rights violations,” according to the event organizers.
Calling those government officials behind the policy “deranged,” Mr Allyn refers to the newly initiated immigration practice as “a moral outrage.”
“The current activities have been deemed by the United Nations as gross human rights violations, so it’s incumbent upon us as citizens to confront the evil…that’s what it is: evil.”
Mr Allyn and rally organizers across the state and nation realize there is much work to be done to craft appropriate immigration policies to address the influx of those seeking residency and refuge in the United States. He and a growing number of those standing against the current practice believe “with enough public pressure, we can bring this barbaric practice to an end.”
“I’m glad to see representatives from both sides of the aisle as well as former First Ladies lining up denouncing this policy,” Mr Allyn added, referring to all five living first ladies who weighed in on the Trump administration’s immigration policy this week.
Among them, current First Lady Melania Trump issued a statement via a spokesperson that said she “hates to see” families separated, and called on both Democrats and Republicans to change immigration laws.
State Senator Tony Hwang, an immigrant whose parents escaped Communist China as teens and lived under martial law in Taiwan, has been a consistent and outspoken critic of President Trump’s past documented insults of women, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and the disabled. He is among the latest state leaders to stand against the separation practices.
“Yes, illegal immigration is against the law, but the new enforcement policy is inhumane, it is cruel, and it must end,” Sen Hwang said in a release June 20. “We can all agree that innocent children must be protected. We can all agree that Congress needs to step up immediately and do its job. Congress: Please do what you were elected to do. Work in a collaborative basis. Solve the problem in a thoughtful, comprehensive, compassionate way. You are our leaders. No more delays. No more posturing. Get to work. As former First Lady Laura Bush recently wrote, ‘Can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate, and more moral answer to this current crisis?’ I firmly believe the answer to Laura Bush’s question is ‘yes’. Now is the time for our leaders in Washington, DC to lead.”
Local and statewide rallies Saturday and Sunday will precede similar and larger protest activities planned for New York on June 25, and for Washington, D.C., on June 30.
Mr Allyn said utilizing the symbolism of the white ribbon is appropriate because the current practice of separating immigrants from their children is “an assault on parenthood and motherhood.”
With his voice quivering with emotion, Mr Allyn said, “the idea of taking children away from their parent for any period of time is evil because it is unnecessary — it’s like domestic terrorism in the name of policy that has nothing to do with America.”
In the event of rain on Saturday, the Newtown rally will take place in the gym of Edmond Town Hall; entry is through the lower rear entrance of the building. For more information, contact Mr Allyn at 203-270-9659, or visit Action Together CT at actiontogetherct.org/
Associated Press content was used in this report.