GLENS FALLS — Protesters held signs Saturday outside of U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s office that called for reuniting immigrant families separated at the border, though Stefanik says she’s on their side.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 20 to halt the separation of children from their parents when they are detained while illegally crossing the U.S. border. Still, protests were scheduled for Saturday across the United States — including ones in Albany, Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls — to urge a permanent fix to practices that, according to the Associated Press, separated around 2,300 children from their families.
“This is shameful that we aren’t doing more to get families reunited,” Warren County Supervisor Claudia Braymer said at the protest in Glens Falls. “I mean, first of all, they should have never been separated. Now we need to work quickly and swiftly to get the families back together. They are spread out all over the country now. So we need to continue protesting and making sure our elected representatives in Congress know that this is not OK to us.”
On Friday, Stefanik, R-Willsboro, told The Post-Star in an interview during a visit to the Hudson Headwaters Health Network facility in Queensbury that a compromise immigration bill failed in the U.S. House of Representatives. It included halting the separation of families and reunifying them as well as $25 million for border security, including physical barriers such as a wall and technology. It also allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and apply for six-year renewable visas and offer a pathway to citizenship through a merit-based system. It failed 301-121.
“I am a co-sponsor of a separate bill that stands alone that will ensure the reunification of families,” Stefanik said.
Braymer was informed of the standalone bill and said that the broader immigration debate is holding up a resolution to the immediate humanitarian crisis.
“I think now she is pushing a standalone bill and she should have pushed that in the beginning to get families reunited immediately,” Braymer said at the protest. “That’s the priority. Then we can work on the rest of the broken immigration system.”
During the protest near Centennial Circle, many were given the opportunity to speak. Before Braymer took the megaphone, Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein of Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs delivered his message. After his comments, he spoke to The Post-Star, stressing the civic duty citizens have when they disagree with actions taken by the government.
“I think it’s a responsibility to citizens that are concerned, whether they are Democrats, Republicans or unaffiliated, to protest policies that do not reflect what America is about,” Rubenstein said.
Though Stefanik says she is fighting for the cause, he believes protests will get the attention of others in the “ruling party,” Republicans.
“I am more here because she (Stefanik) represents the administration and the ruling party in the government,” Rubenstein said. “People like her, who disagree, we haven’t heard enough from them about it.”
Another issue that has been discussed as part of the national immigration debate is the role of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE. Some Democrats have proposed abolishing ICE, including New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who upset a 10-term Democrat from Queens in Tuesday’s primary.
Many signs held up during the Glens Falls protest carried similar messages about ICE, though Stefanik doesn’t support doing away with it.
“I don’t support abolishing ICE,” she said Friday. “I think it is important that we have a legal immigration system and rule of law in this country. I think the best way that we can fix this is by passing legislation in Congress.”
Stefanik added that she hopes any future immigration legislation would also include an agricultural visa to help farm workers.
The protesters marched down to Glens Falls City Park, then returned to Centennial Circle to deliver their message to those passing by.