Activists spent Father's Day drawing attention to a controversial new immigration policy that separates migrant children from their parents.
The day that included congressional visits to detention centers, marches and vigils was dubbed #FathersDayofAction by activists on Twitter, to highlight how some migrant children were forced to spend Father's Day apart from their parents.
The separations began last month under a new Trump administration policy aimed to discourage parents from bringing their children across the border illegally by threatening to split up families.
One group of Democratic members of Congress visited a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to speak with detained fathers who had been separated from their children. Demonstrators outside the facility protested the policy.
Near the Mexican border, another group of congressional Democrats, including Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, visited Texas facilities housing migrant children.
And U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke - who is challenging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in November - led a Father's Day march to a tent camp in Tornillo, Texas, 35 miles southeast of El Paso, which will hold up to 360 migrant children.
O'Rourke energized the crowd by saying the image of immigrant children being held in detention camps should not be associated with America.
"We're wanting to make sure that everyone in this country knows what is happening here, in their name, in Tornillo, where kids have traveled 2,000 miles, some alone, some with their parents, are being held in detention camps, tent cities that have just been constructed over the course of this last week," he said.
"This is inhumane," O'Rourke told CNN. "I'd like to say it's un-American, but it's happening right now in America. And it is on all of us, not just the Trump administration. This is on all of us."
U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., also attended and spoke, saying many stories of families in this country have the same beginning - families who have experienced discrimination, poverty and a government that turned the other way and forced them to leave and build a better future in a new community.
Other events were scheduled elsewhere in the country. A vigil was planned in Waterloo, Iowa, by the Cedar Valley Advocates for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Americans for Democratic Action Iowa.
"There have been many events in response to the administration's policy at the border,' Lisa Munoz, a co-founder of the Cedar Valley group, told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. "With it being Father's Day on Sunday, we thought it was fitting to recognize the fact that, while we're celebrating fathers, there are parents and children being separated as we speak.'
And in Phoenix, an evening "Rally for Migrants" planned to begin with a prayer vigil at Central United Methodist Church and end in a peaceful protest at an ICE field office.
Meanwhile, the wife of Pablo Villavicencio, a pizza delivery worker who was detained while delivering a pizza to the Fort Hamilton Army base in Brooklyn, New York, penned an op-ed in the New York Daily News asking ICE to release her husband.
"When Pablo speaks to our daughters over the phone, we cry," Villavicencio's wife, Sandra Chica, wrote. "The pain of being ripped away from our family is unspeakable."
Contributing: María Cortés González, El Paso Times
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