Protest at ICE Building, 1600 Callowhill St., Philadelphia, PA
December 11, 2013 – Philadelphia, PA
A group of undocumented Philadelphians and supporters have just blocked all the exits for deportation vehicles at the downtown Philadelphia ICE office, just as they prepared to transfer immigrant detainees.
The action comes on the Eve of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as community members led a procession to ICE headquarters to speak out against President Obama’s deportation dragnet programs. Under a banner that read “Not One More Deportation,” Philadelphia residents are calling for an end to the collaboration between local police and immigration authorities called “Secure Communities” or “S-SCOMM.” Early in 2014, the Philadelphia City Council will be holding a hearing to review the chilling effect on immigrant communities and the negative impact on public safety caused by Immigration (ICE) Holds, one of the ways in which police and ICE collaborate under S-COMM.
“Every day, people are being mistreated and punished by the immigration and deportation system,” explains Juan Carlos Romero, a member of the Latino Immigrant justice organization, JUNTOS. “Tomorrow, that person could be me, or any of us. I’m asking Obama to act with vision and stop deportations.”
As part of the national #Not1More Deportation campaign, protesters are demanding the President stop deportations, end the Secure Communities Deportation Program, and stop the enforcement of all Immigration (ICE) Holds. A growing consensus of immigrant rights advocates say that the President has the legal authority and the moral obligation to provide widespread relief for immigrant communities, especially as Congress closes for the year without passing immigration reform.
In explaining why she was participating in the action, Maria Serna stated,“I have lived and experienced the U.S. immigration system. We have suffered through many deportations in our family. Although my mother and grandmother are U.S. citizens, it took me twenty years to obtain legal residency in this country. I’d like President Obama to remember that he is a Nobel Peace Prize winner; he has the duty to provide humanitarian relief. This is not about politics, religion, or race—this is a matter of humanity.”
Participants will be live tweeting at @Vamos_Juntos_ and @ndlon and using the hashtag #not1more
Miguel Andrade moved to Philadelphia from Colombia when he was 5 years old, and grew up attending Philadelphia’s public schools. Currently, Miguel is a youth organizer for Juntos where he works to empower young people to fight for human rights on issues such as education, labor, and immigration. “Immigration is very personal to me. For the majority of my time in the U.S., I was undocumented. My dad was deported when I was a kid. I know what it feels like to have your family torn about by deportations, and I believe that nobody should have to go through that.”
Amada Armenta grew up in El Centro, California, a small town fifteen miles from the Mexican border. She is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and does research on local policing and its intersections with the immigration enforcement system. “As a nation, we spend a staggering amount of money to criminalize, detain, and deport people who are here for the same reasons my family, and others, have always arrived to the U.S– in pursuit of the American dream and a better life for themselves and their children. It is unforgivable to deport people who would benefit from immigration reform, if our political leaders had the courage to fix our broken system.”
Veronica Castillo-Perez works in non-profit arts management and has been fighting for Latino and immigrants’ rights since marching with Cesar Chavez and participating in the United Farm Workers grape boycotts in the 1980s. “I’m still doing this because in some ways, things have gotten worse; we must continue to improve the lives of Latinos in this country. Historically, when our national laws have been unjust and unfair, they have been revised and changed. I’d like to tell the President that it’s hard to hold on to ‘hope’ when justice is not for all.”
Juan Carlos Romero is a local entrepreneur and business owner. He is a proud father to a four-year old daughter and lives with his family in South Philadelphia, where he has resided for over a decade. “Every day, people are being mistreated and punished by the immigration and deportation system. Tomorrow, that person could be me, or any of us. I’m asking Obama to act with vision and to stop deportations.”
Maria Sena, mother of two, has been a Philadelphia resident since the early 1990s. She cleans houses, is an active volunteer with Juntos, and leads a movement to expand access to driver’s licenses to all Pennsylvania residents. “I have lived and experienced the U.S. immigration system. We have suffered through many deportations in our family. Although my mother and grandmother are U.S. citizens, it took me twenty years to obtain legal residency in this country. I’d like President Obama to remember that he is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and to end deportations and fix the immigration system. This is not about politics, religion, or race—this is a question of humanity.”
Hiram Rivera is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Student Union working with high school students who are fighting for a high quality education for all Philadelphia students that will prepare them for success in college, in their lives and for every opportunity for them to achieve their dreams. Hiram is a father of two and of Puerto Rican descent and has had friends whose family members have been deported, their fathers, brothers or uncles. “I believe that families shouldn’t be separated, I’m here to fight to end deportations and to support those who come here looking for a better future for themselves and their families, those who contribute to our communities. I believe everyone deserves an opportunity to do that. No human being is illegal and I’m here to defend the rights of everyone.”