Undocumented young activists risk arrest to block a deportation bus and call for immigration reform
That's when it hit him that he wasn't the only one whose life was potentially about to be upended due to deportation. The realization eventually fueled his activism, he said. He was inspired to participate in the undocumented youth movement to call for just and inclusive immigration reform, and he'd joined the ICE blockade as a member of ASPIRE and the Asian Pacific Islanders Undocumented Youth Group.
TWO MILLION DEPORTATIONS
In just a short time, the scene outside the ICE building had become zoo-like. Television news crews appeared, police cars raced up with lights flashing, and a few young ICE guards, sporting thick black vests and belts with holstered weapons, stood by the bus in wide defensive stances.
More than 100 supporters formed a procession and encircled the vehicle, waving signs and chanting as they went round and round. "Down, down with deportation! Up, up with liberation!" Some chants were in Spanish: "Obama, escucha, estamos en la lucha!" (Obama, listen, we're in the struggle.)
Obama delivered comments that very day, as the federal government was reopening after being shut down by Congress, signaling that immigration reform was the next major agenda item.
"We should finish the job of fixing our broken immigration system," the president said in a televised address from the Rose Garden. "There's already a broad coalition across America that's behind this effort — from business leaders to faith leaders to law enforcement. The Senate has already passed a bill with strong bipartisan support. Now the House should, too. It can and should get done by the end of this year."
California has the largest immigrant population of any other state, with an estimated 2.8 million undocumented Californians. Advocates are calling for the creation of a path to citizenship that isn't overly burdensome, and for immigration policy that doesn't rely on detention and deportation as cornerstones of immigration enforcement.
"We were really hoping immigration reform would pass and reduce deportations," Asian Law Caucus staff attorney Anoop Prasad told the Bay Guardian just before the protest got underway. Instead, "Obama is closing in on his two millionth deportation since becoming president," he said, a higher number than those carried out under President George H.W. Bush when he'd been in office for the same duration.
Much of that steep increase has to do with technological capability and information sharing under Secure Communities (S-Comm), which has resulted in an estimated 90,000 deportations of undocumented people in California alone.
Prasad said he had reviewed the roster of detainees loaded onto the bus earlier that day. They'd been taken into ICE custody in various Northern California cities, including San Francisco, and they had origins in Russia, Mexico, Ethiopia, Vietnam, El Salvador, India, and other countries. Some had children, and a few were minors themselves.
"One guy has been here since he was 11 months old," Prasad said. "Now he's in his 40s."
There are three immigration courts inside 630 Sansome. Undocumented detainees are transported there from ICE facilities in Richmond, Bakersfield, Sacramento, and Yuba County, often roused around 3am. They aren't allowed any books or personal property when they're locked up awaiting court appearances, Prasad said/
"In court," he said, "a lot of times people have their legs and hands shackled."
Sometimes the early-morning departures and daytime detentions can disrupt medication routines, he added. That's a problem for people taking medication to combat mental illness — especially when they're headed for anxiety-inducing appearances in court.
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