Buffalo, N.Y. – Twenty-five workers were arrested and detained here when federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided four Mexican restaurants in mid-October. Since then, supporters have rallied repeatedly against this injustice.
When hearings for the #Buffalo25 were held Oct. 27 at the local ICE Field Office, the workers were not alone. A rally gathered a wide range of supporters, including People United for Sustainable Housing, Coalition for Economic Justice, Western N.Y. Council on Safety and Health, Western N.Y. AFL-CIO and SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice). Church groups were represented by Trinity Buffalo, Pilgrim-St.Luke’s/El Nuevo Camino UCC and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo. The Buffalo International Action Center and Workers World Party were also present.
Rochester supporters came from Movimiento Cosecha as well as Catholic Workers. A group from the Workers’ Center of Central New York drove two and a half hours from Syracuse to join the support rally.
In a freezing downpour, speakers demanded that all charges and deportation proceedings against the workers be dropped and that workers in federal or local custody be released immediately. Speakers emphasized that the immigrant workers had been exploited, overworked and underpaid, and they now faced their families being ripped apart. The main rally demand was permanent protection for all immigrants against arrest and deportation.
The #Buffalo25 workers dramatically stepped forward at the rally to make their stories known. Coming out of the shadows, they told how ICE ransacked their family homes, threw their belongings away and stole their savings. The theft included one worker’s nest egg that she had saved for her daughter’s college education.
Then eight community members and activists sat down in front of the ICE office doors, chained themselves together and shut down the building in support of the #Buffalo25. All eight were charged with trespassing.
“If you’re going to take our neighbors, immigrant workers, people from Buffalo, you’re going to have to take us too,” said Carlos Rojas, an organizer with the immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha.
“There have been massive raids that have targeted immigrant families, workers, restaurant workers,” added Rojas. “People are under crisis; children are without their parents. We want to send a message to the community that immigration is targeting families; they’re targeting workers who aren’t doing anything wrong.”
The next step in the fightback will be on Nov. 1 when the #Buffalo25 and supporters begin the #Journey2Dignity from Buffalo to New York City to demand dignity, not deportation, for the millions of undocumented workers detained by ICE during the current U.S. administration.
Four of the #Buffalo25 are currently wearing ankle monitors. In a courageous act of civil disobedience, they will cross the state line from New York into Pennsylvania on this journey. They will defy ICE and bring their demands to electoral offices during the final days of the election campaign. They say that the pain of their community will no longer remain invisible, and they will no longer remain silent.