SALT LAKE CITY — "It's unimaginable."
Diane Homan of Lehi couldn't bear to lose her own children, so she joined hundreds of others rallying at the Utah Capitol Saturday "because there are children and families involved who are vulnerable and can't speak for themselves."
"I love my country, and when you love someone you tell them what they're doing wrong," Homan said.
The "wrong" she's referring to is President Donald Trump's zero-tolerance immigration policy that is leading to the separation of families at the country's border. He signed an executive order on June 20 to stop it, but it remains largely unknown what will happen to the children already separated from their families during their attempts to cross into America.
"I was astonished to learn that our immigrant families have been separated and violated and put into cages like prisoners," said Brandy Farmer, a long-time Utah activist and director at Communidades Unidas, who said detention centers at the border are reminiscent of "concentration camps."
She's imagined herself as the mother or grandmother of the thousands of children left without parents, as well as one of the children, and said she has a very hard time with it.
"Exercise your right to vote," she told the crowd.
The rally was one of hundreds held throughout the country to send a message to Trump and to Congress to reform the ill-fated policy. House Republicans have rejected one of two bills aimed at correcting the situation, though Trump has tweeted that they should "stop wasting their time," as he believes they don't have the numbers to pass anything until after November elections.
Signs and posters carried by marchers flashed contact information for Utah's elected delegation, and organizers urged rally participants to call and express their opinions.
"We will not be silent," said Adrian Romero, an activist who was born in Mexico and raised in Salt Lake City.
"My parents both worked two jobs to provide for our family of five," she said, adding that she suffers with various mental illnesses and issues stemming from her childhood. "I remember holding onto my mother's ankles and begging her to not leave again."
Migration, Romero said, "is a natural response" and that America was built upon such a premise, to become an asylum for people fleeing difficult circumstances no matter what they might be.
One participant held a sign that read: "You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land."
Nearly a dozen steps at the Capitol were covered with empty pairs of shoes, representing the children who might have filled them had they been allowed to enter the country peacefully. The installment illustrated the overwhelming sentiment at the rally, expressed by hundreds of voices that yelled out, to "abolish" the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is operating detention centers at the border and enforcing the deportation of illegals throughout the country.
"We're all a family," said Carl Moore, a Native American tribal dancer and activist who led the group in prayer. "It is interesting that some people can't recognize that."