Inside the Noisy, Spontaneous, Airport Protest to Greet Separated Children in NYC

“I love you. We’re with you. We are here to fight for you.”

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at New York City’s Laguardia Airport late Wednesday night to greet inbound flights from Texas carrying displaced migrant children. They held signs offering words of love and support, and criticism of controversial family separation policies at the US-Mexico border.

The demonstrations were organized quickly after images from earlier that evening of multiple groups of children shepherded out of the airport and into awaiting vans started to go viral. One group wore matching hooded sweatshirts and carried personal items in clear plastic bags, similar to other migrant children who have been separated from their families. This continues a trend of migrant children quietly flown across the country to be placed in New York City shelters.

Word of these arrivals quickly spread on social media, and several different activist groups mobilized to turn out support for other children who might have been landing later that evening.

“My heart was broken tonight when I was following one of the kids who landed about 8:45pm,” explained Cristina Jiménez, Executive Director of United We Dream, a national immigrant advocacy group. “He seemed disoriented, and he was really scared. I spoke to him in Spanish, and I told him, ‘I love you. We’re with you. We are here to fight for you.’”

“We saw how they got put in vans,” she continued, “and immediately I tweeted that we were here.”

Within hours, hundreds of demonstrators showed up. They moved from terminal to terminal to follow the arrival of each subsequent flight from Texas.

At 1:42am, Terminal C was packed with demonstrators anticipating the night’s last arrival from Houston. Signs in Spanish offered messages of comfort: “You Are Not Alone!” “We Love You!” “We Want to Help You—With Love”.

No additional migrant children appeared to have arrived that night, but one organizer announced, “This is not the end. And we will come back.”

In her closing remarks, Jiménez led the crowd in a full-throated cheer usually heard in stadiums, and the terminal rang out with hundreds chanting, “I believe that we will win! I believe that we will win!”