From the Field

Immigrants shut down traffic in San Francisco to demand #Relief4Refugees

Lindsay Schubiner • Jan 28, 2016

On Tuesday, immigrants protested the Obama administration’s recent raids targeting refugees from Central America by staging coordinated civil disobedience actions in Los Angeles and San Francisco. These senseless raids have led to the deportations of mothers, children, and many others fleeing violence—and sometimes death—in their home countries.

I joined the San Francisco action, where protesters blocked two intersections in the heart of the city near Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices. The action stopped traffic for approximately three hours and led to the arrests of 16 people.

Immigrant communities have been organizing to stop the raids since they began at the beginning of this month, with this demonstration serving as the latest call for an end to unjust deportations. Tuesday’s actions were sponsored by the Immigration Youth Coalition (IYC), California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), CARECEN, and many other immigrant rights and allied organizations.

Artist and activist Julio Salgado participated in the direct action.

“We are here in downtown San Francisco trying to hold this Administration accountable to stop criminalizing our communities,” Salgado said. “This Administration doesn’t take accountability for the fact that there’s immigrants here because of policies that the U.S. has created.”

“There’s a reason why DACA exists, and it’s because people did this.” -Julio Salgado

Another participant, Itzel C. Medina, echoed the sentiment:

“We feel that it’s necessary for us to be here so that we can put an end to detention and to deportations and to the raids that have been targeting Central American refugees, and also to address the root causes of why those refugees came here in the first place. That is, U.S. intervention in Latin American countries.”

The Obama administration defends its actions by arguing that it is only targeting immigrants who have a final order of deportation signed by a judge. Yet without access to a lawyer, many asylum-seekers have their valid claims for protection denied. Advocates and lawyers have also argued that the raids may be in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws protecting individuals with disabilities, particularly those with trauma-based disabilities.

Tuesday’s demonstration was also part of a broader campaign to get ICE out of California, a demand that local and state police departments cease collaboration with immigration enforcement. Since the tragic shooting of Kathryn Steinle on San Francisco’s Embarcadero last summer, the anti-immigrant movement has gained unprecedented traction in its attempt to paint immigrants as dangerous criminals and end so-called sanctuary city laws across the country.

In reality, immigrant communities and communities of color are criminalized by our unjust immigration laws and our carceral state, and sanctuary city laws can help keep families together.

Dozens of refugees have already been deported because of raids this year. Many leave family members and loved ones in the United States only to face widespread violence that U.S. intervention in Central America helped to create. One academic study found that at least 90 migrants deported in the last 21 months were killed, a number that is sadly likely to be a gross underestimate. Without an end to these raids, the toll in human lives will only rise.

Photo credit: Imagine2050 staff

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