New Yorkers Rally in Rain to Protest Unjust Separation of Families on Father’s Day #FreetheDads

June 19th, 2017

Earlier today, New Yorkers gathered at the Department of Homeland Security building in downtown New York to call attention to the millions of fathers who spent Father’s Day separated from the families due to this country’s unjust mass incarceration and immigration detention systems. The event, co-hosted by Just Leadership USA and the New York Immigration Coalition, featured speakers directly impacted by this country’s unjust incarceration and detention systems.

Steve Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition commented, “This Father’s Day we remember the thousands of fathers unjustly separated from their families due to this country’s inhumane immigration detention system. The United States spends over $2 billion a year to detain immigrants, many of whom will eventually be permitted to stay in the country--that’s taxpayer dollars that could instead be spent on education or infrastructure. We’re proud to stand together with Just Leadership USA today to call on the Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to immediately suspend the aggressive enforcement and incarceration policies that are terrorizing all of our communities.”

Khalil Cumberbatch, Manager of Trainings at JustLeadershipUSA commented, "At a cost of $85 billion annually, 2.3 million Americans are behind bars. Crime has been declining for decades, yet the number of children with a father in state or federal prison is now over 1.5 million. Incarceration and immigrant detention are tearing apart families. Having experienced this first hand, I can tell you that separating families is not going to improve public safety. We must ensure that people are supported and families are united."

Aber Kawas, Lead Youth Organizer at the Arab American Association of New York, spoke at the rally: “Today, we gathered together to say that we are against incarceration and systems of immigration enforcement that tear families apart. My father was deported to Jordan in 2008 when I was in my junior year of high school. He was just one of thousands of Muslim men in New York City and around the country who was targeted for deportation and surveillance due Islamophohic policies post September 11. This year my younger sister graduated from college which means that my father has officially missed every single one of his four children's high school and college graduations.”

"I was unjustly ripped away from my newborn for the first year of his life," said William Evans, a JustLeadershipUSA member. "I missed all of his important milestones - first tooth, first steps, first word. I did not want my children to see me in jail, so I didn't allow them to visit for the first six months that I was detained at Rikers Island. That is time that my children and I can never get back. A father's relationship with his children is precious, and our criminal justice system should treat it as such. We must not allow other families to experience what mine has gone through."

"Let this Father’s Day remind us of the thousands of incarcerated dads who will not spend today with their children,” said Tina Luongo, Attorney-In-Charge of the Criminal Practice at The Legal Aid Society. “Until we fully divest away from the prison industrial complex, close Rikers and end unjust pretrial bail practices, our criminal justice system will continue to oppress and divide families of color across this city and state.”

National Association of Social Workers-NYC Chapter Board President Candida Brooks-Harrison, LCSW, and Executive Director Juli Kempner, Esq., LMSW, commented, "Far too many fathers are unjustly behind bars as a result of our criminal justice and immigration systems thus contributing to the breakdown of families and communities. This is particularly true and devastating to communities of color in which individuals are over-policed and accused of crimes at higher rates than their White counterparts. Many are detained only because they cannot post bail or their trials are systematically delayed and yet, they have not been convicted of any crime. As social workers criminal justice reform is a priority and our Code of Ethics mandates us to advocate for human rights in every instance. This Father’s Day, we acknowledge those families that are separated by bars and join our community partners in demanding that money be spent on jobs, housing, and education, not incarceration."

Brandon J. Holmes, an organizer with the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “Here in New York City, we spend $860M each year to incarcerate thousands of New Yorker’s before they have even been convicted of a crime. Across the nation, organizers and policy advocates from across the country are demanding real, concrete criminal justice reform to reduce the number of families that are being torn apart by a broken criminal justice system that feeds off of incarcerating generation after generation of low-income, communities of color.”This Father’s Day, I will not forget the history of my family and the millions of others impacted by a lack of comprehensive criminal justice and police reform. I will continue to fight to end broken windows policing which endangers all residents of New York City and pass speedy trial reform that is centered on the needs of the directly impacted leaders carrying this work.”

All photos courtesy of Alexander Bryden.


JustLeadershipUSA is dedicated to cutting the US correctional population in half by 2030. JLUSA empowers people most affected by incarceration to drive policy reform in order to change the nation’s prison systems.

The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for nearly 200 groups in New York State that work with immigrants and refugees.The NYIC aims to achieve a fairer and more just society that values the contributions of immigrants and extends opportunity to all by promoting immigrants’ full civic participation, fostering their leadership, and providing a unified voice and a vehicle for collective action for New York’s diverse immigrant communities.