Calif. immigrant youths defend their families

By Judy Greenspan
San Francisco

Hundreds of progressive youth, predominantly Latin@, converged on the local offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to demand an end to the raids on the homes and workplaces of undocumented workers in this city. Young people from the East Bay risked arrest by jumping BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) turnstiles to attend the Oct. 31 protest.

The organizers of this protest chose Halloween to launch a broad and united youth-led campaign against the ICE raids and deportations. Demonstrators were urged to wear black and skull face paint or masks. The all-day event gathered at 10 a.m. at Ferry Park, marched to the ICE office at 11:30 and maintained a militant, energetic rally and protest until after 5 p.m.

At the ICE headquarters, young people blocked both entrances of the building and refused to let any ICE vehicles leave the area for several hours.

Young protesters from the East Bay who wanted to attend the rally jumped the turnstiles at several East Bay BART stations. The BART responded by closing several stations. However, the young people, who kept in contact with each other by cell phone and Internet, successfully held up the East Bay BART trains, demanding that the stations be reopened. There were several arrests of young people at the downtown Richmond BART stop.

“We want to make sure our families are safe and that our lives are not being threatened. It’s really unfair, trying to scare high school students. We want to make sure sanctuary cities are respecting immigrants,” said Aurora Castellanos, a first-year student at the University of California at Berkeley. Castellanos was one of the organizers of the rally.

ICE raids at schools and workplaces have increased dramatically over the past year. Several coalitions, including this newest one, have come together to demand amnesty for all undocumented workers and an end to the ICE raids.

Many cities in the Bay Area are “sanctuary cities” for undocumented workers. However the sanctuary status has not deterred ICE from its terrifying raids.

“We are humans, not illegals! Stop the raids!” the protesters chanted as they marched through this city’s business district. Hundreds of people came out of stores and offices to watch the march go by.

Many of the students who came out to stop “the violence done to immigrants and families from Africa, Mexico, Central and South America, Asia and the Pacific Islands and the Middle East, had first hand experience with the ICE raids. One woman, Beatriz Dominguez, spoke about waking up one morning to find her father gone. ‘They took my dad away,’ she said. ‘That’s why I am here today—to make my voice heard and to speak out for my family and for all the students who couldn’t be here because they were afraid of ICE,’ Dominguez explained.”

All quotes from the Berkeley Daily Planet, Nov. 6.

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