HAMMOND — About 40 protesters flocked to downtown Hammond Saturday to voice their opposition to Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids against undocumented immigrants, drawing both cheers and jeers from passers-by.
The demonstration in front of the Federal Courthouse was prompted by President Donald J. Trump's recently announced ICE raids as well as the conditions of detained migrants across the United States, according to Alfredo Estrada, a local immigration attorney and activist.
“We started when we found out they were deporting people out of Gary International Airport,” he said. “By we, I mean all of us who are opposed to the deportations and the abuse of immigrant children. It's a diverse group united by a common cause."
The protesters were a mix of religious groups and immigrants rights organizations.
Many driving by honked in support while a few flung insults at the crowd gathered on a day when temperatures reached the 90s.
A Christian pastor and a Jewish rabbi said prayers with the crowd while others spoke out against the Trump administration and the treatment of immigrant populations.
Most of the activists highlighted the conditions reported in the detention centers along the U.S.-Mexico border as why they were voicing their opposition.
“Recently I had a client who was 12 years old and sent to one of these centers. We were able to get her back with some family. But when I asked her about her experience there, she was unable to talk about it,” Estrada told the Times. “There is an extraordinary harm being done to these young lives, a mental trauma they will have to live with.”
Others had a more radical approach to the situation, arguing it isn't just the Trump Administration's policies and that activists should adopt a harder line against the United States government in general.
“This is an issue with capitalism and nationalism,” said Lorrell Kilpatrick, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Gary. “It's not Donald Trump. The hard truth is this is a systemic issue that goes beyond this.”
Estrada says while he doesn't see eye-to-eye with all of the activists opposing the Trump Administration's immigration policy, they are share a common cause.
“We are united by a basic principle of human rights and immigrant rights. It's from there we can discuss how we move forward,” Estrada said. “Disagreements are natural, but everyone still gets together to fight.”
More demonstrations are likely to happen as the year goes on, according to Estrada. He said his other next steps include helping organize seminars for immigrants on what to do if ICE wants to question them.
“It starts as simple as informing people to their right to remain silent,” he said. “But it goes deeper than that, which is why this is so important.”