Separation fight not over, advocate says

Published 12:24 am Thursday, June 21, 2018

Order changing policy does not address how families will be reunited

Even though President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end the separation of migrant families attempting to cross the border, Covington County Grassroots Alliance Director Sheri Powell said that the battle is not over, that people still need to vote for proper representation in the White House.

“Voters must be educated,” Powell said. “They must study the candidates and look at issues that affect them directly, like Social Security, Medicare and rural healthcare. By not researching candidates, voters often wind up shooting themselves in the foot.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April ordered prosecutors along the border to “adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy” for illegal crossings. Sessions announced the police in a May speech.

Since early May, 2,342 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the Southern U.S. border, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Wednesday’s order did not address how those families will be reunited.

Powell said that she decided to get involved with the immigration issue after watching MSNBC television host Rachel Maddow break down into tears on air.

“This issue is heartbreaking,” Powell said. “I have never heard of anything like this in all of my life. I have always watched Rachel Maddow ever since she started her show and she has never broken down, that’s how serious this is.”

Thousands of children have been split from their families as their parents seek asylum in the U.S. by crossing the border illegally.

The children are being labeled as “unaccompanied minors” and sent to government custody, and the parents labeled as criminals and sent to jail.

Powell believes that these children will be traumatized for life.

“They are being separated from their mothers and fathers,” Powell said. “Their parents have no idea where they are being kept and workers in the camps can’t even touch the kids to console them. There are so many terrible things going on in our country, but there are so many things that we can do to make things right.”

Powell said that the people of the United States need to get together and start coming up with solutions.

“It is imperative, that as a nation, people who vote need to start educating themselves on who they are voting for,” Powell said. “I’ve heard people say ‘It’s just the primary we’ll vote in the general election,’ but all elections are equally important.”

In Covington County, there were 8,478 ballots cast out of a total of 26,274 registered voters.

“We at the Grassroots Alliance are deeply concerned about the state and Covington County’s poor voter turnout,” Powell said. “Only 26 percent of the state’s registered voters voted statewide in the primary election on June 5, and Covington County had a slightly better turnout with 32 percent.”

Getting out to vote is a primary goal of CCGA, Powell said.

“We’ve conducted voter registration drives in high schools, canvassed door to door, made phone calls and this last election, mailed reminders to vote,” Powell said. “We believe that everyone should do his or her fair share to build this life through education, hard work and active participation in public life.”

With congress and representatives from each party at each other’s throats, Powell hopes that one day they can see eye to eye.

“I think the people of America did a wonderful job shedding light on this issue,” Powell said. “Republicans and Democrats both said, ‘No, this is not our country,’ and in things like this, we need to work together to come up with a solution. We need to get everyone to a point where all representatives are thinking lets work together. We have evolved into this gladiator duel to the death.”

Powell said that she is passionate about participating and expressing her views, which is why she is participating in the #FamiliesBelongTogether Action on June 30, in Auburn.

“I want to get together with a huge group of like minded people,” Powell said. “People who think that we need to treat everyone as a human being and not as a roach or animal. It is so vitally important that we treat everyone like what we are, a human being.”

Powell said that she is willing to take a group of people from Covington County if they want to reach out to her.

“I want to start pushing people to let me know,” Powell said. “If we get a good group we will meet up and head out.”

The #FamiliesBelongTogether Action will be Sat., June 30, at 11 a.m., at Toomer’s Corner in Auburn.

Similar rallies are being organized across the country that Saturday, including Auburn, Birmingham, Florence and Huntsville in Alabama, and Panama City and Pensacola in Florida.

The national website also lists an Andalusia rally being organized by Brandon Jeter, who did not immediately respond to requests for information on Wednesday.

Powell was born and reared in Covington County, went to Auburn University where she earned her bachelors and masters degrees and worked for the University of Alabama’s College of Engineering for 18 years.

“It is heartbreaking what our country has become,” Powell said. “But we can make a difference.”