ICE raids spark community resistance
Published May 16, 2008 11:32 PM
Police of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) department have
been very busy in the Bay Area since May Day. They have invaded restaurants and
rounded up undocumented workers in San Francisco, threatened students outside
their high schools and homes in Oakland and Berkeley, and—true to their
name—sent a wave of terror and fear through immigrant communities here in
the East Bay.
Despite the recent raids, however, immigrant rights organizations,
neighborhoods and students are fighting back.
On May 2, ICE conducted raids on 11 Bay Area restaurants belonging to the
Taqueria El Balazo chain, arresting 63 women and men workers on the spot. But
this Gestapo-like offensive did not go unchallenged.
The following Monday, May 5, some 300 people demonstrated in front of the local
ICE offices in the San Francisco financial district. Signs read, “ICE is
a terrorist organization!” “Open borders, open minds!” and
“No one is illegal!” The Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition
initiated the action and the community responded. Representatives of the San
Francisco Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Labor Council and California
state representatives all addressed the crowd.
Félix Fuentes from the Bay Area Labor & Immigrant Committee said that
ICE had “violated all the rights of the workers ...
and we are here to tell ICE that we are NOT scared and they will hear more from
California State Sen. Carol Migden reminded the crowd that San Francisco is a
so-called sanctuary city where these raids should not be happening. She added
that if these workers are indeed undocumented, “then we should make them
Even workers from Taqueria El Balazo who had been arrested at work by ICE came
and bravely addressed the crowd. José Sánchez López, employed as
a cook for almost seven years and the father of three children, wore his
electronic monitoring device locked around one ankle. He had been released from
federal ICE custody pending immigration hearings and was required to wear this
Sanchez said the ICE agents went through the workers’ lockers and took
things, including his driver’s license. He told the newspaper El
Mensajero, “I pay my taxes. ... I’m one of those people who goes
from my house to work, and on the weekends I take walks with my
Later in the week, police and Department of Homeland Security vans drove
menacingly through the San Francisco Mission neighborhood, which is mostly
Latin@. Neighborhood organizers posted warnings throughout the community and on
On May 6, ICE moved into the East Bay communities, raiding several homes and
rounding up undocumented community members and students. In Oakland, Homeland
Security and ICE vehicles were spotted outside one of the high schools. Oakland
Mayor Ron Dellums promised that no ICE agents would be allowed on school
campuses. However, ICE vehicles continued to be spotted around schools.
Berkeley school officials made a similar promise, but the raids continued in
the homes and workplaces of undocumented immigrants.
State Assemblywoman Loni Hancock issued a statement sharply criticizing the ICE
raids and reminding the government that both Berkeley and Oakland are sanctuary
cities for immigrants and their families.
On May 9, students at Berkeley High School were so incensed about the ICE
attacks that they formed a new organization: Fighting for Immigrant Rights and
Equality (FIRE). “FIRE beats ICE” is their slogan. The group
announced that its first action would be to form a protective human chain
around the school as a strong message to the government that students have a
right to a safe education at their school. FIRE is also making plans for a day
of protest later in May that will include teach-ins, music, a rally and a carne
The May 1 Coalition, the organization that led a major demonstration for
immigrant rights on May 1, also announced its intention to organize fightback
actions against the San Francisco ICE roundups.
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