SKOWHEGAN — Even as President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday afternoon allowing families to be detained together at the U.S.-Mexico border, a handful of people assembled on the Margaret Chase Smith Bridge in Skowhegan to protest his “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.

The order will keep families together, but the “zero tolerance” prosecution of people who enter illegally will continue, a point that was not lost on the nine demonstrators Wednesday evening, some carrying placards accusing the Trump administration of mirroring Nazi policies of the 1930s and ’40s.

“It changes nothing for me,” said Hope Savage, of Skowhegan, holding a sign that said: “What kind of monsters put children in cages?”

“So now we’ll be incarcerating mothers with their children until what? It’s Nazis; Nazis put children in cages.”

Madison resident Peter Sirois said he was going to bring a Hav-a-heart trap and a children’s doll to illustrate how he feels about putting kids in cages, but he didn’t.

“I was going to do that because that’s what they’ve done,” he said. “What’s the purpose of putting a baby in a cage? What crime does a 2-year-old commit?”

The Trump administration has been enforcing its own “zero tolerance” immigration policy on separating children from their families, but there is no law that mandates it and the new proclamation doesn’t change anything for the families already separated by the Trump policy, protesters said in Skowhegan.

The zero tolerance policy was announced April 6, and the policy was put into action in May. From April 19 to May 31, 1,995 children were separated from 1,940 adults, according to Homeland Security statistics obtained by The Associated Press. The figures are for people who tried to enter the U.S. between official border crossings.

Gail Edwards, of Athens, who helped spread the word about Wednesday’s planned rally on the bridge in Skowhegan on social media, said the president appears only to have made things worse by suddenly reversing course on separating children from their families.

“He said he’s not going to separate the families. It’s going to keep them together, but he’s going to incarcerate them together and now instead of it being a misdemeanor for showing up at our borders, it’s going to be a felony,” Edwards said. “And according to this executive order, he will be able to detain these people indefinitely, so there’s no end in sight. The bottom line is we can’t mess with families. That’s inviolate. That’s sacred.”

She urged others to rally and protest against the current immigration policies.

The national outcry against taking babies and children from their parents was expressed far and wide, including from all four former first ladies and the current one, Melania Trump. Infants and young children are being held in three so-called “tender age” shelters at the border after being separated from their families who illegally crossed into the United States, The Associated Press reported.

Brian Richmond, of East Madison, said the signed proclamation Wednesday doesn’t change anything.

“First of all there’s the question if you believe it or not. He reverses himself every other day,” Richmond said. “It doesn’t address the overall immigration policy — the wall, the zero tolerance policy, and it’s not doing anything about The Dreamers.”

James Fangbone, of Solon, summed up the demonstration with a sign that read “No Child Left In Jail.”

He said: “I have zero tolerance for corrupt politicians.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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