ICE treats immigrants like criminals

October 29, 2008

Diana Macasa reports on how activists came together to protest a day of raids against immigrants in the Bay Area.

ACTIVISTS FROM several Bay Area groups helped organize an emergency-response rally in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in San Francisco on October 23 to protest a string of raids that took place throughout the Bay Area the day before.

The Movement for Unconditional Amnesty called the demonstration, and some 150 people turned out to call for justice against this attack on the immigrant community.

A number of groups, including UNITE HERE Local 2, ALDI (the Latin American Alliance for Immigrant Rights), CISPES, POWER, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Iraq Veteran Against the War (IVAW), helped build the event. Independent congressional candidate Cindy Sheehan and Eric Quesada, who is running for supervisor in the Mission District, participated in the rally.

The media has categorized these raids as "gang raids" targeting alleged members of MS-13. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, MS-13, also known as Mara Salvatrucha, is a gang started in Southern California with roots in El Salvador. "They have reaped vengeance and horror and violence on communities, particularly in San Francisco and Richmond," U.S. Attorney Joe Russionello told the San Francisco Examiner.

Some 150 people rallied in front of ICE headquarters in San Francisco in protest of raids the day before
Some 150 people rallied in front of ICE headquarters in San Francisco in protest of raids the day before (Brian Cruz | SW)

But this wasn't a raid to round up gang members, as the mainstream media claim--especially since ICE, under the hypocritical name Operation Community Shield, conducted the raids. This begs the question: If this was a raid to round up gang members, why did ICE carry out the operation? And why would San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom collaborate with ICE for over a year when this is a case that that San Francisco Police Department--or, for that matter, any other government agency--could have handled.

As the San Francisco Sentinel pointed out, "While ICE entered with criminal warrants--searching for alleged MS-13 gang members--many other individuals were arrested in the process." This is a ploy by ICE to continue their attacks against immigrants, with the help of Mayor Newsom.

Russionello may be oblivious to it, but members of the immigrant community see ICE as the entity that "reaps vengeance and horror and violence."

Speaking at the rally, Alex Revelo described how ICE agents stormed into his family's house without declaring their purpose, rounded everyone up, and threw him and his mother into the cold. "I am an American citizen, and they treated me this way," Alex said. "I can't imagine how they treated the others, so I'm speaking out today because I want justice."

ICE's harassment didn't stop with Alex's family. "ICE agents broke down the front door, detonated an explosive device, handcuffed the adults and older children, and held all family members, including an 8-year-old child, at gunpoint," the Sentinel reported. "ICE also brutally attacked a woman, causing her to lose consciousness and require hospitalization."

As Eddie Falcon of the IVAW said, "These are the same tactics used in the war in Iraq."

ICE and the mayor are waging a war on the immigrant community, but activists are rallying together to fight to regain sanctuary city status in San Francisco.

The case of Edwin Ramos is an example of how the media demonizes immigrants. Even though Ramos, who is accused of murdering three people, has pled not guilty, the media portray him as guilty and a member of MS-13. The same is true of the 29 people picked up in the recent raids, which the media labeled as "gang raids."

Moreover, the media fail to account for why gang activity exists in the first place: the economic conditions that the working class of all ethnicities are subjected to. Furthermore, the media neglect to report on why immigrants come to the U.S. to begin with--in large part because of the neoliberal policies of the United States.

As an immigrant woman from POWER said at the rally, "We clean their houses, their toilets, and we're continually crapped on. This is how we're treated."

In order for the raids to stop and for the San Francisco's sanctuary status to be reinstated, a multiracial grassroots movement has to be built that will challenge the racism that permeates the media and distorts the public's view of the immigrant Latino community. Such a movement will need to fight against Mayor Newsom's collaboration with ICE.

The theme that ran through the rally was unity--organizations working together to ensure that all immigrants are protected.

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