SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Sansome Street in San Francisco, hundreds of people gathered during the evening rush hour, chanting and waving signs in protest of the separation of children and their parents who cross into the U.S. illegally.
Organizers say they felt they had to speak out.
"It just spoke to me personally, the trauma and torture to the kids is unbearable," said the protest co-organizer Rebecca Solnit.
"As a mother it actually hurts my heart, so much so it's hard to look at on the news. That's why we decided to come out here," said Moriah Ulinskas, the other co-organizer who brought her daughter and son.
"I think it's our duty and our right to stand up for people who can't stand up for themselves," said Sebastian Meyer, a teenager who came from Marin with his father and sister.
Two teachers Lauren Markham and Sara Stillman came from the East Bay where they say they work at an Oakland school for immigrant youth.
"This has been totally devastating for them. They feel like they're being portrayed as monsters and as criminals when all they're trying to do is save their lives," said Markham.
On Friday, the Associated Press obtained family separation data from the Department of Homeland Security.
It revealed that 1,995 minors were separated from their families between April 19 through May 31st. The separations do not apply to or include asylum seekers who declare themselves at official border crossings.
President Trump repeatedly blamed Democrats Friday.
"I hate the children being taken away. the Democrats have to change their law, that's their law. That's the Democrat's law, we can change it tonight. We can change it right now," said President Trump.
But in fact, the Democrats did not enact any law mandating separation.
Instead, the separations come in the wake of a "zero tolerance" policy announced April 6th by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordering anyone caught illegally entering the country be detained for criminal prosecution, a policy which does not apply to children.
"Our goal is to reduce and ultimately end illegal immigration," said Sessions at a gathering of law enforcement cadets in Pennsylvania Friday.
Congressional Republicans have been working on two immigration bills. The moderates' version would provide $25 billion for Trump's border wall, end so-called catch and release policies, end the visa lottery system, and allow Dreamers brought to the country as children illegally to apply for 6-year renewable visas.
President Trump confused Republican leaders Friday when he declared on camera that he wouldn't sign the moderates' immigration bill, which he'd previously supported.
"We are waiting for the president to clarify his comments. We have negotiated the four pillars deal, his deal," said California Congressman Jeff Denham, a moderate Republican.
A senior White House official later said President Trump had misspoken.
Democrats criticized the President.
"He's using children, whether they're dreamers or whether they're children at the border now for a political purpose. It's shameful," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Reposting: Hundreds protested outside #SanFrancisco #ICE office over the @realDonaldTrump Dept of Justice actions separating undocumented immigrant children from parents at border crossing. Beginning to march on Sansome Street. pic.twitter.com/7cMLBthtaU— Jana Katsuyama (@JanaKTVU) June 16, 2018
#TrafficAlert #SanFrancisco #FamiliesBelongTogether protest at #ICE building against has moved to Washington St., block at 630 Sansome still closed. Thanks for message @SkolyViking @DogsAreJerks slip of the thumb... @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/IaduPYY0O7— Jana Katsuyama (@JanaKTVU) June 16, 2018