(July 6, 2018) Following nationwide protests the day before, Sunday’s “End Immigrant Detention” rally outside the Worcester County Detention Center brought out several dozen people concerned over the perceived humanitarian crisis and a handful of counter-protestors who are hawkish on border protection.
The “End Immigrant Detention” rally outside the Worcester County Detention Center, the gathering and drew a crowd to John Walter Smith Memorial Park in Snow Hill for a 2 p.m. march opposing the crackdown by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Braving the hot humid weather were Fenwick Islanders Bill and Barbara McGrory, who felt encouraged by similar rallies held on Saturday across the country.
“It’s easy to complain from the armchair,” Bill said.
For her part, Barbara McGrory questions the need to detain individuals seeking political asylum.
“People who are fleeing for their lives [and] people in danger are not committing a crime,” she said. “They didn’t do anything wrong; they’re just seeking a better place.”
Also attending was Jeanne Cushing of Newark, who makes regular monthly visits to support immigration detainees held in Worcester County as part of the DC Detention Visitation Network.
“Many have been in the states for years [and] have families and jobs,” she said. “These people should not be in jail. They’re not criminals.”
The DC Detention Visitation Network, whose volunteers make regular stops at three immigration detention centers in Maryland and Virginia, said 1,000 or more individuals are being held between the two states facilities on any given day.
“Most speak English and I never felt threatened by anyone,” she said.
In many instances, Cushing said, detainees have been held over a year, and without pending criminal charges, are not entitled to public defender representation.
“They’re in jail because of the social crime of crossing the border,” she said.
Among a handful of counter-protestors was Ian McDonald who took exception with the left-leaning agenda.
“They’re not even liberal anymore — they’re closet communists,” he said. “They want open borders [and] they want Communism.”
McDonald and his cohorts voiced their displeasure with the immigration rally, envisioning sealing off porous borders as a stronger solution to the humanitarian aspect of illegal border crossings.
“There’s kids dying in the desert every day because there is no wall to stop people from coming over and their solution is ‘we’ll just let everybody come,’” he said.
Countering that perspective was Barbara McGrory.
“We don’t want open borders,” she said. “We want a better way to do this.”
Cushing said most detainees are shipped to the mid-Atlantic from other regions, which typically limits contact with family and loved ones.
“They’re not local people and their families can’t visit them because they don’t have the money,” she said.
Cushing has seen documentation about family members being murdered by drug gangs in Central and South America, and has little doubt many are living in real fear of violence.
“The gangs are after them and want their daughters and sons,” she said. “They’re holding older people hostage in order to get their kids.”
Perhaps highlighting common ground, McDonald yearns for immigrants to enter the U.S. through legal means.
“If they’re legally going to the embassy and applying for asylum that’s a whole different story,” he said.
Despite some back-and-forth exchanges between the two groups, with Worcester County Sheriff deputies keeping a watchful eye, the two sides parted ways amicably. The one exception was Pastor John Wright, of the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Salisbury, who was issued a civil citation for stepping in a road dividing the two sides.