NEW ORLEANS, November 14, 2013—
18 immigrant workers and four community leaders, members of the New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice, sat-in at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in New Orleans, demanding an end to a harsh new program of community raids by ICE that are tearing families apart and terrorizing the immigrant workers who helped rebuild New Orleans.
“I’m doing this for Juan Carlos Castillo Salazar, who was arrested by ICE after he dropped off his five-year-old little girl at the school bus stop,” said Mario Mendoza Molina, a member of the Congress of Day Laborers at NOWCRJ, who is one of the 22 participating. “I’m doing this for Irma Esperanza Lemus, who cried when ICE agents handcuffed her and took her away in front of her husband and two children.”
The protest targeted a harsh new program of community raids that ICE has piloted in New Orleans over the past year called the Criminal Alien Removal Initiative (CARI).
Under CARI, ICE squads—sometimes accompanied by local police—have been raiding apartment complexes, grocery stores, laundromats, Bible study groups, parks, and anywhere else Latinos might gather, making arrests based purely on racial profiling.
NOWCRJ executive director Saket Soni, who was also arrested engaging in civil disobedience, said: “With comprehensive immigration reform stalled, the question is what life will be like now for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America. We believe CARI is the answer: brutal community raids based solely on racial profiling. The CARI program, piloted right here in New Orleans, needs to be stopped before it’s expanded and replicated around the country.”
Jacinta Gonzalez, lead immigration organizer at NOWCRJ, said: “We are responding to four or five CARI raids a week. ICE is arresting and deporting reconstruction workers, parents of U.S. citizen children, and youth. These raids are terrorizing the immigrant community that helped rebuild New Orleans—and deserve the right to remain here.”
Under CARI, ICE agents in New Orleans have recently arrested a fathers in front of their families, pushed and handcuffed a 16-year-old U.S. citizen boy for asking questions about his father’s arrest, and joked about “going hunting” while driving around New Orleans in search of Latinos to handcuff and fingerprint even before questioning.
The civil disobedience is part of the national #Not1More Deportation campaign demanding that President Obama use his administrative powers to stop deportations.
- That ICE stop all CARI enforcement in New Orleans and halt the deportations of victims of CARI raids.
- That ICE halt the deportations of NOWCRJ and Congress of Day Laborers worker members.
- That ICE release information on CARI’s functioning, scope, cost, and impact.
- That President Obama use the authority of his office to grant the right to remain for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America and halt all deportations immediately.
Maria Angelina Amaya – Born in Honduras, and migrated to New Orleans only 2 months after Katrina to work, her expectations were to come here and work hard to be able to provide for her children and for her family back home. “When I first came to new Orleans everything was destroyed, and everybody who would come to work was welcomed because the city needed a lot of help, then when the city started to look better and reconstruction work was being done, things started to change, police started harassing us, ICE too and because of that we just didn’t feel safe anymore, we were afraid of going out to the corners, to the streets looking for work because of this harassment, we couldn’t even drive in peace and we started to see a lot of family separation, I was a victim of that because they deported my partner leaving my children fatherless.” He was deported to Honduras. She heard of the Congress of Day Laborers and decided to get involved to support all persons that have gone through the same than her. “I’m determined to engage in civil disobedience so there’s no more family separation, no more raids and for a just, comprehensive immigration reform for the more than 11 million of undocumented people so we all can come out of the shadows. To send a message to the whole nation, that we are not afraid anymore and to our communities all over the country, to step up to raise their voices and be heard”.
Roberto Izaguirre – Roberto was born in Nicaragua and has worked in agriculture and as an agronomy technician, he migrated to the US in 2001 after Hurricane Mitch. He first arrived to Texas where he lived for 5 years working as a construction worker and also, maintenance at a clinic, and for the lack of papers he had to be fired, from there he came after the hurricane Katrina here in New Orleans because of the reconstruction work that needed to be done here, he worked here as an electrician, plumber, sheet rock, roofing, pretty much everything related to construction work.‘’ I’ve seen the discrimination based on the color of our skin, for not speaking English, for not being from this country, they look at us as if we were criminals’’, that’s when he decided to get involved with an organization ‘’because only united we can make a difference, we can push the police, the sheriff to respect us, to respect our right to remain in this city that we had helped to rebuild, because I know, I’m sure! That only united we will be strong enough to make changes for the good that we need so much.’’
‘’I’m participating in this, first of all because I was affected as a father, because ICE took my son away, he didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink, he didn’t cause any trouble, he was a hardworking man, but that didn’t matter to them, he was arrested and deported to my home country Nicaragua, my sons name is Erick Roberto Izaguirre Sanchez”.
Elmi Adonay Perez – Elmi (24) decided to take part in the action today for the mothers and the children who are left without their parents. He has been stopped and has been put in jail several times, often times for no reason or small infractions. He thinks its time that the racism and the profiling stops. “They look down on us, there’s no respect, and treat us like we’re worth nothing. We all have rights. We helped rebuild this city after Katrina, we helped lift it up and they don’t recognize that.”
Mauro Alfonso – Mauro has lived in the US for most of his life. He moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in that time speaks from personal experience and witnessing others’ being harassed by police and ICE. On one occasion during a traffic stop the police officer called an ICE agent to supposedly help with translation, he was detained and later released. Mauro says that President Obama must remember he came from immigrant parents, and that his future was the dream of his parents. He must recognize that all of us have those kinds of dreams and deserve the right to pursue them. “I am getting arrested for the 11 million inhabitants of this country who have a right to remain.”
Santos Alvarado – Originally from Honduras, Santos has lived in the US for 14 years. He is a day laborer and got involved in organizing after seeking help when his boss stole a months worth of wages from he and his co-workers. He is an active leader of the Congress of Day Laborers and has traveled across the country to advocate for the civil and labor rights for all. He says its time for the President and other elected officials to understand that the community is rising up and won’t stop pushing until they take action. “I am participating in this civil disobedience because I know it’s a moral obligation to be in solidarity with each of the people who are in deportation proceedings. Every one of the 11 million who are in the shadows in this country have the right to remain.”
Santos Canales – Santos is a reconstruction worker from Honduras. That means he has built foundations for homes, built homes and painted them after Hurricane Katrina struck the city. He’s lived in New Orleans for five years. Soon after the storm, National Guard patrolled the city and Santos recounts that often times reconstruction workers were mistreated by the military. Organizers with the Congress went to the guards and spoke to them, and after that the treatment changed. He joined soon after and has been an active member since. Today will be his first arrest ever. “Many times the government talks a lot and does little. I am doing it because I believe, think and feel that things have to change. I am proud of how we’ve come, but to go further we’ve got to put it all on the table.”
Sara Avila – Sara is married and has lived in New Orleans for 8 years. She says that immigration officials come to her neighborhood between 2 and 4 times a month. They stop people in their cars, bikes and sometimes go directly into their homes. One time she recounts that a couple was taken while cooking dinner, their pots left on the stove. Now, the neighborhood feels empty. People are either gone or try not to come outside anymore. She identifies racism as the driving force behind the arrests that lead to deportation, and that many people who are caught up in the system have little to no criminal record. “Its time for us to come out of the shadows. The people united will never be defeated. We need to support each other, a single person can’t do it all alone.”
Alfredo Carrera – Alfredo has been organizing with the New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers for four years, and was one of the workers helping to rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina. He first became involved after his car was rear-ended, and he was arrested for driving without a license. While he was in jail, he saw how immigration racially profiled Latinos and targeted them for deportation. His experience and organizing after getting out helped change the policy of the New Orleans Sheriff department, which recently announced they would stop responding to ICE requests for immigration holds. IN recent months, Alfredo has met the families of people detained during the immigration raids in New Orleans, and was touched by the story of Enrique and his daughters. Enrique was stopped by the New Orleans Police and deported just last week. “I came for him and his two little girls. I have seen the pain that deportations cause. But I have also seen the power of organizing, and how through the power of stories people can change their minds about horrible things they have done. If our Sheriff can see it, President Obama should be able to do the same.”
Luis Chamale – Luis is 28 years old and a father of two daughters, one who is 12 and another that’s 7 months old. He has lived in New Orleans for 15 years and has witnessed the increased harassment of his community by police and ICE. The threat has landed at his doorstep, his wife is currently in deportation proceedings. “I am getting arrested today to support my wife, to stop her deportation and to support others facing the same problem.” He says that the US is a country with many immigrants and that Latinos have helped lift up this country and New Orleans.
Hector Duenas – Hector is a father of two girls, aged 4 and 1 ½ . He and has family directly faced the deportation machine in a early morning visit from ICE officials, who came before sunrise looking for his aunt. Agents wouldn’t allow her to change, and yelled and made threats to the entire family. She was arrested and put in deportation proceedings. After paying a lot of money to attorneys and being told there was nothing to do, Hector turned to organizing to secure the release of his family member. He says that now more than ever he understands that today it may be another who faces deportation, but tomorrow it could be him. Recently he traveled to Arizona to participate in a national conference against deportations, and he is active in local campaigns to restrict collaboration between police and ICE. He says he feels compelled to act because of the situation of separated families, he is motivated by the way the community is fighting back. “I am taking this step because I want to send a clear message that we don’t want to see anymore separation of families. I won’t say I’m not afraid, but I’m more confident than afraid, confident that the community will support us. I see how we all support each other like a family.”
Alfred Marshall – Alfred was born and raised in New Orleans. He knows from first hand experience what it means to be targeted in profiled. In the 90’s he remembers how because of the War on Drugs, Black neighborhoods were declared ‘high crime areas’ and people would be stopped and searched repeatedly. If you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, you’d likely go to jail for anything from for not carrying an ID or sitting on the wrong porch. That period was also marked by the expansion of jails. Alfred started to organize in the community, which led to many charges of interfering with police. Today will be his 70th arrest. “I truly understand what they’re going through because my community has lived through the same thing. I’ve seen too much of it. We must come together and organize.”
Mario Mendoza Molina – Mario is married and is a father of 5 and has lived in New Orleans for 8 years. He works as a construction worker. He is taking arrest today, despite the risks it represents for he and his family because he believes strongly that its time to say enough is enough. From in the community, on the job and in interactions with law enforcement he has witnessed people being treated less than because of their immigration status, to the point that people have absolutely no rights. This happened to Mario on the job when he and a crew of coworkers had their wages stolen by a manager. They confronted him, the company owner and even tried to take the case to court. At all levels they were denied because of their immigration status. “We are all brothers, color shouldn’t matter. There is no greater fear than one that is not confronted, and as long as we fight for it, we will have a better future.”
Saket Soni is the director of the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice and the National Guestworkers Alliance. He is participating in the civil disobedience today “in honor of the workers and families who rebuilt New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.”
Austin Washington – Austin is a 28 year old native of New Orleans. He’s seen the city in its ups and downs and says that in many ways he and his family have had a similar experience. He became active in organizing because he was interested in seeing the prospects for better jobs and accessible housing improve. He says its been a struggle to find decent paying work, and that often times people work multiple jobs and still have to seek government assistance to take care of their family. He wants to see a better community and better future for New Orleans. To make that happen, Austin believes that impacted communities need to stand together, divided we fall, together we conquer. “I’m participating because I feel it’s the right thing, its illegal what the federal government is doing to them. I don’t care if they’re here illegally or not because they’ve got to feed their family just like I’ve got to feed mine.”
Jose M. Zelaya – Jose came to New Orleans six months after Hurricane Katrina in hopes of finding work in the rebuilding efforts. He experienced wage theft and racism on the job and eventually sought work as a day laborer. He joined the Day Laborer Congress soon after and has been an active member since advocating for better treatment of workers and to push back on the police repression that people of color and immigrants face in New Orleans. Jose is especially concerned about the profiteering happening with the detention and incarceration system and the violation of civil and human rights occurring in New Orleans and across the country. “We helped rebuild this city, we are fighting for a right to remain because its what we deserve.“
Delmy Palencia is a mother and leader of the Congress of Day Laborers in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was unjustly arrested and faced deportation, incarcerated and separated by her infant son. Her fight to remain with her family and to prevent her deportation led to precedent setting policy in New Orleans to limit local police collaboration with ICE. Today she takes arrest to make a statement demanding change in New Orleans and across the country. “Its time President Obama take action to stop deportations. Not one more deportation. Not one more separated family.”