Hundreds of statewide leaders march to protest child separation policies

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Hundreds of statewide faith leaders marched Saturday afternoon to the Otay Mesa Detention Center, where they protested immigration policies that separated more than 2,300 children from their parents.

California Highway Patrol officers and San Diego County sheriff’s deputies were called around 1:05 p.m. to monitor protesters marching in the roadway toward the detention center, according to sheriff’s Lt. Amber Baggs.

There were at least two different groups protesting in front of the detention center, including a handful of people who were blocking an exit to the facility, according to media reports.

Lt. Baggs said around 5 p.m. that she wasn’t aware of anyone being arrested.

Related: Thousands participate in Families Belong Together Protest in downtown San Diego

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday intended to end family separation at the border, but it doesn’t include any recourse for the families who were already affected by the policy during the past several months.

As of Friday, federal agencies have been working on a reunification process, and 500 children have been returned to their families since May.

Saturday’s protesters will call on the federal government to implement more oversight in the reunification of immigrant families.

Participating organizations include faith-based social justice groups PICO California and the San Diego Organizing Project. Bishop Robert McElroy, the Catholic diocese of San Diego, is expected to attend, as well as Father Neal Jose Wilkinson and Gloria Morales, both with the San Diego Organizing Project.

“Children do not belong in detention centers. They belong with their families, in our communities and in healthy, safe environments where they are able to thrive,” said Wilkinson.

After sharing immigrant-related stories through the day, protesters will hold a candlelight vigil into the night.

The march comes on the heels of U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ visit on Friday to the detention center, which she described as a “typical prison setting.”

Related: U.S. Senator Kamala Harris joins immigration protesters at Otay Mesa border

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