Pinellas residents push for immigration policy change after video of children in cages

ST PETERSBURG, Fla. — Monday night, St. Petersburg residents gathered at Williams Park, pushing to keep undocumented immigrant families together.

Earlier in the day, another group met in Clearwater at the intersection of McMullen Booth and State Road 580. They are pushing Congress to act fast to make changes after new numbers from the Department of Homeland Security show nearly 2,000 parents have been separated from their children at the Mexico border wall. 

It is a video showing kids in cages at a Texas holding facility that's flaring tempers across the country.

The video provided by the US Customs and Border Protection agency shows children in metal cages being held in a different area than their parents, who are charged with illegally crossing the border into the United States.

RELATED: 2,000 children have been separated from their parents at the US/Mexican border, DHS confirms

RELATED: Inside Border Protection's processing detention center: Chain link fences and thermal blankets

Lisa Perry, who organized the St. Pete rally, says seeing the pictures and video out of Texas encouraged her to take action.

“We refuse to sit back on our couches and we’re going to stand up and get loud until something changes," said Perry.

The topic is taking center stage on the national news, but ABC Action News went straight to the experts at Politifact Florida to separate fact from fiction. 

President Donald Trump remains firm in his stance. “I say it’s very strongly the democrats’ fault,” he told members of the media Monday.

President Trump argues he’s simply following existing immigration law. Allison Graves of Politifact says there’s no law forcing parents to be separated from their children.

Graves says it comes down to policy,

"If President Trump wanted to prosecute fewer illegal immigrants crossing the border, he could. That, in turn, would mean fewer kids and parents separated," Graves said. "If you hear president Donald Trump making claims that this is happening as result of a law or because of a Democratic law, that is simply not true."

How about the number of children and parents being separated? Has it increased?

“In the last six weeks we’ve seen 1,995 children and that is quite a bit more in a short amount of time,” Graves added.

Politifact says from October 2017 through April 2018, 700 children and parents were separated. In the last six weeks, that number has nearly tripled, and it continues to go up.

People in St. Pete and Clearwater, where rallies were hosted Monday, are pushing for the House and Congress to take up this issue.

The House of Representatives could vote on a plan later this week, but so far, neither of their options address family separation.

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