Family separations at border being protested nationwide

Throngs of people joined rallies across the country to protest the federal policy of separating children from their parents at the Southern border.

Marches and rallies took place or were planned for later in the day in more than a dozen states, including California, Texas, Michigan and New York, to draw attention to what organizers characterized in a statement as the Trump administration's "cruel and inhumane treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers."

About 60 cities and towns across the country were expected to participate, said Anna Tarkov, communications director for Families Belong Together, a group opposed to the family separations.

Gabriela Domenzain, director of the Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island, was among several dozen people who rallied Thursday in nearby Warwick.

Domenzain told NBC affiliate WJAR of Providence that she took part because "putting kids or parents in cages is not something we stand for."

"This is inhumane," she said. "International organizations need to get involved."

Photos from various rallies: 

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Thousands nationwide protest family separations at U.S.-Mexico border
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Thousands nationwide protest family separations at U.S.-Mexico border
Demonstrators carrying signs, including one reading "Save America", march during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Demonstrators carrying signs reading "Abolish ICE" and "I Really Do Care", referencing the coat recently worn by First Lady Melania Trump, march during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Demonstrators gather on the Boston Common during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains profanity.) A Demonstrator participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Demonstrators participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Demonstrators participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Demonstrators participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: A demonstrator participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: A demonstrator participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
People hold placards during a 'Familes Belong Together' march and rally in Los Angeles, California on June 30, 2018 where a thousands turned out to decry the Trump administration's detention of families policy at the US Mexico border. - Thousands of demonstrators, baking in the heat and opposed to the US immigration policy, marched across the country Saturday, June 30, 2018 to protest the separation of families under President Donald Trump's hardline agenda. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold placards during a 'Familes Belong Together' march and rally in Los Angeles, California on June 30, 2018 where a thousands turned out to decry the Trump administration's detention of families policy at the US Mexico border. - Thousands of demonstrators, baking in the heat and opposed to the US immigration policy, marched across the country Saturday, June 30, 2018 to protest the separation of families under President Donald Trump's hardline agenda. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Demonstrators march against the separation of immigrant families, on June 30, 2018 in New York. - Demonstrations are being held across the US Saturday against President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policy. (Photo by EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Lauren Unterberger, 16, from Wilmington, DE, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Sufia Bassett, 32, from Bethlehem, PA, originally from Equador, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Lara Carlson, 50, from Maine, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Lauren Unterberger, 16, from Wilmington, DE, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Protesters stand outside the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Protesters stand outside the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Marisa Esparza, 19, of Orange, walks with her sign outside the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march down Irvine Blvd. from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: People line the stadium at Portola High School during a rally to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families, in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: U.S. Representative Lou Correa applauds holocaust survivor Margaret Houffelaar, 91, of Laguna Woods, during a rally at Portola High School Saturday to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
One-year-old Yara Pejan sits by a sign that refers to Trump's immigration policy separating children from their parents, during a rally in Laguna Beach on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Mindy Schauer/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: People line the stadium at Portola High School during a rally to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families, in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: A pro-Trump counter demonstrator holds a sign toward protesters decrying Trump administration immigration and refugee policies on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Although President Trump was forced to reverse his policy of removing all children from their immigrant or asylum-seeking parents, little clarity appears to be seen as to how agencies can fulfill a court order to reunite thousands of children and parents detained far apart by multiple agencies. Yesterday, the Justice Department filed papers in a Los Angeles federal court to have families arrested for illegal border crossings incarcerated together indefinitely. The rally is one of more than 700 such protests being held throughout the nation. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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Several dozen people marched in Rutherford, New Jersey, where the Rev. Ron Verblaauw, pastor of Rutherford Congregational Church,told NBC New York: "Separating children from families is the first sign we are not the land of the free and the home of the brave anymore. We are the scared."

Micaela Eller, lead organizer of Thursday's rally in Austin, Texas, called the so-called zero tolerance policy cruel, telling NBC affiliate KXAN that the stories from parents are heartbreaking.

"It's hard to look at the images, hear the stories, to listen to the mothers' stories of their children being taken away and just being told, 'We're taking them to give them a bath,' and then never seeing them again," Eller said.

Lydia Ponce, a well-known Los Angeles activist, joined about 200 other people early Thursday evening in the city's historic MacArthur Park.

"It's about humanity," Ponce told NBC Los Angeles. "It's not about left or right. It's not a political thing. It's a humane thing."

About 50 people rallied Thursday morning at Lima Town Square in Lima, Ohio, where Beth Sutton-Ramspeck, an associate professor of English at Ohio State University at Lima, told NBC affiliate WLIO that "you don't do that to a child" and "you don't do that to a parent."

"It's cruel. It's inhumane," Sutton-Ramspeck said. "It's un-American. It's un-Christian. It's wrong."

The rallies come as NBC News was granted access to a facility in Brownsville, Texasthat houses children separated from their parents, as well as minors who came to the United States alone.

Last month,Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, which seeks to prosecute people who cross the border illegally, a misdemeanor for the first offense. When parents are charged, they end up in federal custody, and their children are separated from them and rendered unaccompanied. Sessions has looked to deter migrants at the border and has said the administration wants to crack down on potential human trafficking and smuggling.

In a speech Thursday to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sessions promised: "If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then the Department of Homeland Security will arrest you and the Department of Justice will prosecute you. That is what the law calls for — and that is what we are going to do.

"Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution," he said.

Tarkov, of Families Belong Together, said in an interview that supporters had flooded the group's in-boxes asking what they can do to challenge the policy.

"The outrage and the desperation is through the roof," she said.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance, an advocacy group, was also supporting the Flag Day rallies.

"The outrage and opposition will only keep growing if the administration continues this cruelty of separating families," Jess Morales Rocketto, political director of the alliance, said in a statement.

Families Belong Together also hosted a virtual event where supporters could sign petitions, get in contact with elected officials and donate to organizations that work to protect children separated from their families.

It's the second wave of major protests against family separations across the country. Activists rallied on June 1 and filed a complaint with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rightsan agency of the Organization of American States, alleging that the U.S. policy violates human rights.

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