WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Several hundred people gathered in downtown Wilmington on Saturday afternoon to rally against the U.S government's separation of children from their parents who immigrate illegally at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The NAACP of New Hanover County organized the protest in front of Thalian Hall, where speakers stepped up to the podium and shared their perspectives on immigration policy.
The Families Belong Together protest in Wilmington is one of many across the state and country.
A crowd gathered on the lawn and sidewalk, holding signs and banners with phrases including "You can't claim family values if you don't value families" and "No one is illegal on stolen land."
Organizers estimated that about 400 people attended the rally. The Wilmington Police Department who was on hand at the protest estimated that about 150 attended, according to a spokesperson.
"I am a mother of three children, and you think about them being separated from you and how traumatic that would be for them," said Pasha Krise, who attended the rally with her small children. "It's inhumane. It's a human rights violation. Families are meant to be kept together as a unit."
Krise said she and other mothers in the Wilmington area feel frustrated with the family separation occurring at the border.
"I thought, 'Oh man, if I didn't have kids, I'd jump in the car. I'd be at the border. I'd be physically helping people,'" said Krise. "But I couldn't do that, so instead, I've been taking Spanish lessons so as this progresses I can help reunite families."
Tisha Rajendra, a co-host of the rally, grew up in Wilmington but now lives and works in Chicago as a professor of Christian ethics at Loyola University Chicago, focusing her research on the ethics of immigration.
"We are here as part of the national day of action to say families belong together and children should not be in jail," said Rajendra.
Rajendra spoke about the moral responsibility of every American to stand against policies that lead to family separation.
"There is no difference between what (President) Trump is planning and our definition of a concentration camp," said Rajendra. "Families in jail together in inhumane conditions is almost as bad as children jailed by themselves away from their parents."
Rajendra said Trump's executive order earlier this month does little to help children currently separated from their parents.
"They issued this executive order to stop the separation of families, but if you read it closely, it does not do anything for the children who have already been separated from their families," said Rajendra. "It does not do anything to reunite them."
Jerry Donaldson held a sign reading, "FREE MIGRANT BABIES FROM UNITED STATES CONCENTRATION CAMPS." He sees a lot of similarities between the current immigration policies and historical instances of family detainment.
"A lot of my wife's family were in concentration camps in World War II," said Donaldson. "What's going on now with babies, we don't know where they are. We don't know the conditions they are being kept in. We are all terrified if they are not reunited quickly, and there doesn't seem to be a plan to be able to do that, that these children could be at risk."
Donaldson fears the children will face sickness, death, and a lack of support from a qualified caretaker.
"We have a serious humanitarian crisis on our hands," said Donaldson. "It's victimization. It's taking an outgroup or an other group, and demonizing them and considering them to be inferior or evil or the cause of trouble, and then trying to deny them entry, trying to segregate them, to keep them from having equal rights and access to the American system."