On Dec. 16, immigrants and their supporters on both coasts carried out bold civil disobedience actions to shut down Immigration and Customs Enforcement operations. Nine protesters in the Washington, D.C., area and five in Los Angeles were arrested.
The protests are the latest in more than a dozen dramatic direct actions in the past two months organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and other organizations in cities across the country where participants have used their bodies to block deportations. They point toward the White House's self-imposed deportation quota of 400,000 removals per year and the criminalization programs that conscript local police into efforts to meet it, such as the Secure Communities program, as areas under the president's executive authority.
As Congress closes for 2013 without passing an immigration reform bill, the Obama administration continues deporting people at a rate of approximately 1,100 people per day. While Congress is on break, approximately 27,500 people will be deported. Send a letter to President Obama and Congress demanding a freeze on deportations and immediate legalization for all.
The Obama administration’s hypocrisy in relying on millions of immigrant votes, but deporting and separating families at record rates, shows the true nature of the Democratic Party. The president maintains that he has full legal authority to conduct war on Syria and drone strikes without congressional approval. But when it comes to providing relief from the terror of immigration detention and deportation, he claims that his hands are tied. This is a lie.
As the immigration debate winds on without results in Congress, more and more have expanded their search for relief from deportations to include the White House, who granted it to Dream-eligible youth last year and most recently expanded it to include military families. More than 500 organizations were joined this month by 30 members of Congress in calling on the president to expand such relief from deportations to the fullest amount possible.
The president and the Department of Homeland Security have the authority to decide whether or not to deport. With the stroke of a pen, President Obama could order a moratorium on deportations until a just reform package passes. The Democratic Party uses the power of the presidency when it is in the interest of Wall Street and the Pentagon, but refuses to grant immigrants relief from deportation.
Immigrant families around the country are fighting back. Families facing deportation have taken to the streets, stopping ICE in #Not1More deportation actions around the country. Below are reports from the two Dec. 16 actions.
Early in the morning, a group of activists arrived at the ICE Field Office and blocked the entrance to the parking lot where vans and a bus were parked, waiting to round up immigrants for deportation. Braving the cold, nine locked themselves together using PVC pipe, while others chanted and held signs and flags to support the civil disobedience. In Spanish and English, demonstrators chanted “Not one more deportation!” and “Obama, listen, we are in the struggle!”
Blanca Hernandez, one of the protesters chaining herself to the ICE office that morning, said: "I have DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], but people in my family and so many other people in my community are excluded. It’s only fair for everybody to have the same opportunity because we all came here searching for the same thing."
Yari Osorio, an immigrant rights organizer and ANSWER Coalition activist from New York City, traveled to D.C. to attend the protest. Osorio was born in Cali, Colombia, and grew up undocumented. He explained, "I feel it is important for us to not sit on our hands waiting for Congress to pass CIR [Comprehensive Immigration Reform] while the president continues to needlessly tear families apart. Obama has the power to stop deportations and we can't stop fighting until he does so."
Federal and local police were taken off guard by the action, and stood at the scene for over an hour before attempting to remove the protesters. Concerned by the growing number of people standing in solidarity with the sit-in, police issued an illegal order to disperse in a failed attempt intimidate supporters.
Finally, officers with fully charged tasers and a circular saw broke apart the blockade and arrested the peaceful demonstrators. All nine were charged released later that day – ready to continue to fight for justice for immigrants!
On Dec. 16, supporters of immigrants’ rights joined undocumented youth in downtown Los Angeles to block the bus dock of the ICE detention center, preventing any attempts at transporting undocumented workers held inside the prison for deportation.
The ANSWER Coalition mobilized to join with organizers from National Day Laborers Organizing Network, California Youth Immigrant Justice Alliance, Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education, unions, and others in the picketing and civil disobedience action. Several undocumented youth chained themselves to ladders that stood in the driveway that ICE buses pass through.
Ilse Escobar, who chained herself to the top of a ladder that day, said, "I am here today, as someone who was forced growing up, undocumented, to recite the pledge of allegiance to a country that made it clear I was unwanted. And I am not alone here today in this feeling. We are all here as one to demand that Obama sign a moratorium on deportations. And we are also here to call out the corporations who are making money from our suffering, GEO Group and CCA. This country has to stop making money from the incarceration of the people, documented and undocumented!"
After closing the detention center for over three hours to the cheers and solidarity of passing cars in downtown LA, the Los Angeles Police Department shut down Alameda Boulevard to arrest the five organizers who volunteered to participate in the civil disobedience. Protesters vowed to return and to continue to shut down the detention center until there was a halt to all deportations and full legalization for all undocumented people.