For livestream of the action, click on 18Million Rising
In wake of unprecedented protests in AZ, Bay Area groups urge national halt to deportations in order to jump start immigration reform
Just moments ago, dozens of undocumented immigrants and allies peacefully sat down in front of the San Francisco offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and blocked a bus filled with community members en route to deportation.
The action is occurring at 630 Sansome Street in San Francisco.
Today’s protest marks the expansion of a national movement to pressure the President to use his existing executive authority to halt painful deportations of immigrant community members – a move which will bolster efforts in Congress to win inclusive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented Americans.
“I’ve been in that bus before, and I remember how powerless I felt,” said Dean Santos, a local immigrant youth leader with the Asian/Pacific Islander organization ASPIRE who once faced deportation himself and spent days in a detention facility in Arizona. “Now, I’m coming back with the power of our communities in our effort to stop the separation of families.”
Faith leaders also joined the direct action. Father Richard Smith, Vicar of St. John the Evangelist, described the experience of one of his congregants who was deported:
“One night she was coming home from her night job at the hospital, and she was pulled over for a broken taillight. When she was booked her fingerprints were given to immigration, who then deported her. Her two little boys did not know where she had gone, she did not come home, she was not able to call them for ten days until she had landed in Mexico. It’s stories like these I hear over and over again in my neighborhood, and they break my heart… Jesus himself said whomever welcomes the stranger, the immigrant, welcomes Him,” said Fr. Smith, as he walked into the street alongside Alex Aldana, an undocuqueer demonstrator with East Bay Immigrant Youth Coalition, and several others.
This demonstration is part of a trend of escalation in immigrant rights protests, such as the recent DREAM 9, or very recent DREAM 30. It is also one of a growing number of protests where demonstrators have peacefully stepped in front of deportation buses to stop them. These protests include the demonstration in Phoenix where DREAMers stopped a bus departing from an ICE station and the one in Tucson, where demonstrators stopped a bus at one protest, and shut down an immigration courthouse at another.
In fact, many of the same activists leading Thursday’s event are just returning from those groundbreaking protests in Arizona earlier this week.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is nearing the grime milestone of 2,000,000 deportations, and last year alone spent more than $18 billion on separating families, even as programs for seniors and wounded veterans were being cut. In response, both San Francisco and the State of California have recently passed landmark measures to limit deportations of hard-working immigrants and keep thousands of families together.
With the devastating toll each deportation takes, local immigrant rights activists are taking action before those measure even go into effect, while urging both the White House and Congress to immediately follow suit.