On Monday, January 4, 2016, as part of the implementation of the Obama Administration’s immigration policies, the United States Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.) boldly announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) had arrested 121 people over New Year’s weekend, people who will shortly face deportation. These raids mark the initiation of a concerted national effort on the part of I.C.E. to rid the U.S. of Central American refugees—mostly families with young children—who have crossed the southern border since May of 2014 in flight from violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. The removal of recent immigrants who have been denied refugee status is one of the three priorities of Obama´s Priority Enforcement Program. At present, the Salvadoran government refuses to accept the return of 22 deportees, demanding that they receive full due process for political asylum in the U.S. It is worth noting that of the first batch of immigrants returned earlier this year—many of them teenagers— some were executed.These raids, despite the relatively low numbers involved, have also rippled through the race for President of the United States. Donald Trump, the anti-immigrant bigot who is the current front-runner for the Republican nomination, was quick to take credit for these increased attacks. As part of his continuing effort to prevent voters with moderately progressive tendencies from deserting the Democratic ticket, Democratic Party Dark Horse and nominal socialist Bernie Sanders condemned the raids. Meanwhile, presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton acted through a spokesperson of Mexican descent to distance herself from the Obama Administration in order to shore up the vote amongst Latino voters, while leaving open the possibility to adopt a more reactionary immigration policy when she needs to pander to racist voters later this year. In other words, there are no real friends and plenty of bitter enemies to the immigrant community in both parties of big business.Quite understandably, a wave of terror is sweeping through the immigrant community at large in the U.S. Refugee-seeking immigrants have been subject to the “rocket dockets”, a Obama Administration judicial innovation, self-heralded as a more humane approach to immigration proceedings, that guarantees immigrants who have been detained that face deportation speedy processes, which have placed children who are as young as six years old who don’t speak English on trial before judges on video screens without legal representation. Another “humane” alternative to detention applied by I.C.E. has been the widespread use of ankle bracelet monitoring in order to force immigrants to attend their hearings. The bracelets are not only de-humanizing, they also have proven to be health risks for people who have skin inflammations from having them put on too tightly.The widely announced raids against refugees with removal orders announced at the end of last year were meant to prove to the world that the U.S has a functional system of immigration control. However, the raids have provoked wider panic because the immigrant community knows that the Obama administration, despite having lowered the number of deportations, has already deported millions of non-criminal immigrants in the last eight years.
There is a great fear of I.C.E. agents performing community raids, applying their predilection for racial profiling to stop people who look like they could be immigrants, snatch them from the streets, and deport them. The grapevine is rustling with many reports of such raids, all of which have thus far been denied by I.C.E. While this campaign of terror is unlikely to do much to stem immigration from Central America, it has certainly terrorized Latinos in the U.S., immigrants and citizens alike.The unions, which are filled with dues-paying members who are immigrants, have only made a few tepid promises to “support” efforts to prevent deportation. As for the immigrants’ rights organizations and the faith organizations, those who are either paid to stand up for immigrants or do something every now and then to preserve an image of moral uprightness, are decidedly absent from the debate. Sure, there may have been a press conference here, or a call for the creation of sanctuaries there, perhaps even a petition or a postcard campaign or two. However, as for the organization of mass actions to stop the raids and the deportations, there is nothing. We demand them to take the lead in the defense of the immigrant workers and their families and carry out specific actions to protect the community from all I.C.E. raids, and not just this particular operation. It is time to take a stand and stop ICE from carrying on with its usual business of targeting undocumented immigrants. Obama or whoever succeeds him will likely build on his inhuman immigration enforcement policies, and we need to show that they will face an organized and active resistance to counter any more repressive measures against immigrants as the economy and social conditions continue to deteriorate. All of this, after 30 years of waiting for immigration reform that never came. Intentionally or unintentionally, the operation has provoked a lot of fear among immigrants that could result in immigrant workers being less willing to fight, or in immigrant workers deciding to fight back.
• We stand with all undocumented immigrants and their families and demand their right to be here. We repudiate all I.C.E. raids that are terrorizing the immigrant community.
• We call for an immediate end to all deportations and the release of all immigrants currently held at detention centers.
• We call San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, and mayors and other municipal governments across the U.S. to immediately stop any type of collaboration with I.C.E. and become true sanctuary cities for all persecuted refugees.
• We call on churches to open their doors and offer unconditional sanctuary to all persecuted refugees. We call on unions to defend these churches and block all I.C.E. actions attempting to arrest any undocumented immigrant and on the immigrant rights organizations to organize a city, state and federal resistance to protect these refugees.
• We call on those not those not impacted by these attacks to participate in actions stopping deportations.
• We call on the immigrant community for full unity and solidarity with the more vulnerable members of our community!
• No one should be taken!
• Full human and civil rights for all immigrant workers and their families!
• Nobody is illegal! Papers for All!