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Some Idahoans have had it with splitting immigrant families. Now, they're rallying.

A woman speaks at a rally, Thursday in Brownsville, Texas, to bring attention to the U.S. immigration policy. A similar rally will be held on the Idaho Statehouse steps on Saturday.
A woman speaks at a rally, Thursday in Brownsville, Texas, to bring attention to the U.S. immigration policy. A similar rally will be held on the Idaho Statehouse steps on Saturday. The Brownsville Herald via AP

The demand for additional action is something Estefania Mondragon and her fellow advocates could no longer ignore.

An immigration policy rally was held June 1 at the Idaho State Capitol Building where participants protested the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy concerning immigrants and asylum seekers at the U.S. border, Mondragon said.

But soon, they and more of their friends will be back. And they're not alone. A dozen of Idahoans are traveling to Washington, D.C., for a similar rally, and a group of 24 Idaho organizations have signed a letter urging members of Congress to take immediate action over the "alarming maltreatment of immigrant children and their families."

On Saturday, a crowd that could be as large as 2,000 people will gather for the Families Belong Together rally in front of the Idaho State Capitol Building to protest the separation of immigrant families at the southern border. President Donald Trump officially ended this policy last week with an executive order after previously insisting his administration had no power to end it.

However, this executive order does not end the administration's zero-tolerance policy when dealing with adults who cross the border illegally.

The Saturday rally was organized primarily by Mondragon and Jennifer Martinez, who are associated with the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence and PODER of Idaho, a demonstration organization group in Boise.

"The amount of people who reached out to us couldn’t be ignored anymore," Martinez said. "Seeing just how quickly people were reacting to this really felt different."

The estimated number of attendees has been predicted mainly through the event's Facebook page, which says about 1,300 people plan to attend. An additional 4,000 people say they're interested in attending.

While the organizers are expecting a large turnout here in Boise, 12 Idahoans are also heading to Washington, D.C., for a similar protest. The trip was organized by United Vision for Idaho, who said in a press release these 12 delegates include a diverse range of people, from a young student to local faith leaders such as the Rev. Sara LaWall of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

"It sends a powerful message that people in places like Idaho are rising up, fighting back and working in their communities to take back and remake our country," said Gini Ballou, United Vision for Idaho associate director.

On Friday, 24 Idaho organizations released a letter to Idaho's Congressional delegation — Congressmen Raul Labrador and Mike Simpson and U.S. Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch — urging them to permanently end separating children from their parents at the border, immediately reunite families that have been separated and discontinue the indefinite detention of immigrant children.

"Although President Trump signed an executive order to stop separating families in detention, these children and their families still have significant needs that must be met," the letter states. "Most significantly, the order offers no plan to reunite the thousands of children who remain disconnected from their parents."

In addition to demanding the end of family separation, Mondragon and Martinez said the Boise rally will also demand the abolition of the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly referred to as ICE, as well as the United States Border Control.

"They’ve gone rogue, and their behavior has been multiplied by the current administration which demonizes Hispanics and Muslims," Mondragon said. "They don’t deserve to get taxpayer money."

While the organizers have yet to schedule all of their speakers for the event, they have confirmed Boise immigration attorney Maria Andrade will speak. Andrade's firm, Andrade Legal, has followed the practice of family separation for years now, and has worked with many individuals being detained at the southern border.

For Andrade, the United States' policy of zero-tolerance can be rebuffed on a moral, practical and legal basis.

"Regardless of whether you’re pro-immigrant or not, I have trouble believing the people of the United States are for any policy that does any kind of long-lasting damage to children," Andrade said.

Andrade said she also hopes to dispel misconceptions about the situation at the border and remind the public that the majority of the detainees are asylum seekers, given the current state of the countries they are fleeing. She detailed the difficult circumstances many of her clients had come from, including a woman who reportedly told her she would rather risk being separated from her daughter than have her killed and left on her doorstep.

"If we pretend people are just coming here to buy a car and a flat screen TV, then we will continue to turn a blind eye to the horrors they are escaping," Andrade said. "Family detention is a problem that we need to solve — it’s not a solution."

In addition to the rally on Saturday, PODER of Idaho will also hold a sign-making event at 5 p.m. Friday in the Linen Building, 1402 W. Grove St. As the number of expected attendees continues to grow, Mondragon and Martinez are encouraging everyone to be there, regardless of political leanings.

"This is more than just a partisan issue — it’s about morality," Mondragon said. "Everyone sees what’s going on. It speaks to our humanity, not to our politics. This is our chance for folks to step up, whatever side of the aisle they align with. We will not let this happen to our families."