Under the hot sun Tuesday, a crowd of about 50 listened as the Rev. Bev Lewis railed against Pres. Donald Trump’s immigration policies and the treatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I am ashamed,” said Lewis, minister of Immanuel United Church of Christ in Catonsville. “I never saw families being ripped into shreds. Y’all, it’s time for this to stop.”
Lewis was out speaking and protesting, she said, because she was following the mandate passed down to Christians by Jesus.
She was out, she said, because people of faith are called “to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit the prisoner and set him or her free. To treat people as we would like to be treated ourselves.”
“If we don’t do that,” she said, “we are less than human.”
The crowd gathered in Catonsville outside the district office of Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Baltimore-area Democrat, to show support for the lawmaker and demand Congress take action in reuniting separated families and treating migrants better at the U.S.-Mexico border.
In an emailed statement, Cummings described the situation at the southern border as a “crisis” and “tragedy” that “is inconsistent with the values of a vast majority of Americans.”
“We have a moral obligation to ease the suffering of children and families that have crossed our Southern border. Congress must exercise its full authority to address this crisis, and I will do everything in my power to stop the Trump Administration’s cruel immigration policies,” Cummings wrote.
Later on Tuesday, Cummings announced that the House Committee on Oversight and Reform would hold hearings next week with the acting heads of the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol on the separation and treatment of immigrant children.
Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan from DHS and Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan from CBP have both been invited to testify July 12, but neither has confirmed his attendance, the announcement said.
The protest was organized by members of the Catonsville Indivisible Group and Indivisible Central Maryland, progressive political organizations that have actively opposed and protested against the policies of the Trump administration.
Susan Radke, an organizer with The Catonsville Indivisibles and a member of the steering committee of Indivisible Central Maryland, handed about 30 postcards from protesters to Katie Malone, a special assistant to Cummings who works in the Catonsville office.
The handwritten postcards thanked Cummings and asked him and others in Congress to take more action regarding the situation at the border. Malone, who said she was not authorized to speak to the press, told Radke that she would make sure Cummings saw the post cards.
“This was our action, we need to do something,” Radke said. “We are supporting [Cummings] on this.”
The group gathered in Catonsville on Tuesday was part of a nationwide protest, organized by MoveOn, a nationwide advocacy group. Protests were planned all across the country, according to the organization’s website.
Protesters in Catonsville were urging Cummings to take congressional action to “close the camps,” referring to the centers where asylum seekers and others crossing the U.S.-Mexico border have been kept. Protesters also demanded that the Trump administration reunite children with their families.
Reports in recent weeks have described dire conditions inside the facilities, with some calling them concentration camps.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, Rep. Joaquin Castro, of Texas and Rep. Madeleine Dean, of Pennsylvania, along with other lawmakers, recently toured on of the facilities and said on Twitter that those being kept there are “abused and verbally harassed with no cause,” that women have been separated from the children and don’t know where they are, said showers were “dirty,” and that there was no running water to drink or wash hands with.
Last month, Trump told Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” his administration is “doing a fantastic job under the circumstances,” on the border and blamed Democrats for “holding up the humanitarian aid” and refusing to change asylum laws. “If they changed asylum and if they changed loopholes, everything on the border would be perfect,” the president said.
In Catonsville Tuesday, several vehicles drove by, honking and waving in support of the protesters. About three drives shouted things out the window in opposition to the protest, but could not be clearly heard.
State Del. Eric Ebersole, a Democrat who represents Catonsville, choked back tears as he addressed the crowd of protesters. He said the showing of support for Cummings could “empower” the lawmaker and allow him to better make his case in Congress.
After the demonstration, Ebersole said he became emotional during the protest because the polices at the border do not represent what America is meant to be, he said.
“[We have to] make America care again,” Ebersole said.