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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 us.”

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 documented.”

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 unattractive accessory.

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 family.”

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 the Internet.

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 asada barbeque.

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.