Dozens of immigrant rights protesters chanting slogans like “Education Not Deportation” and “Undocumented and Unafraid” gathered outside the offices of Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens in Santa Ana Friday to demand that she end the county’s collaboration with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the arrest and detention of undocumented immigrants.
The protestors, led by members of the immigrant rights group Orange County Dream Team, had sought to deliver a letter to Hutchens stating, among other things, that “by working with ICE, you are not making our community safer but, rather, exacerbating the fear and resentment that already exists towards law enforcement.”
Specifically, the protesters are referring to Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, under which ICE provides state and local law enforcement officers with the training and authorization to identify and in certain circumstances detain undocumented people they encounter during their regular duty.
They were not able to deliver the letter to Hutchens or even enter the building. Instead, a Sheriff’s Department official met the protesters outside the building on Flower Street and accepted the letter on Hutchens’ behalf.
Later, the Sheriff’s Department released a statement declaring it “will continue to operate under the 287(g) agreement set up with (ICE). This program has been in place with the department for more than ten years.”
The statement went on: “The Orange County Sheriff’s Department does not conduct immigration enforcement in our patrol division. We are committed to building trust with the entire community that we serve.”
The Obama Administration in recent years has begun to phase out the controversial agreements.
Dream Team members at the event said there remains much mistrust and fear of law enforcement within the immigrant community and that even with the recent attention given to immigration issues on the national level, politicians are still out of touch.
“We know that elected officials don’t often reflect what is going on in the streets,” said Jonathan Bibriesca, a Dream Team member and one of the leaders of the protest. “We want a national conversation on what is really happening.”
Others attending the protest spoke of how Section 287(g) allows people to be deported for minor crimes and how deportation tears families apart.
In addition to the Dream Team, protest supporters included such organizations as El Centro Cultural de Mexico; Service Employees International Union; Unite Here Local 11; Occupy Santa Ana; the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California; and The Center Orange County.
“Through immigration reform, we have an opportunity to confront shared struggles such as elevated risk for experiencing trauma, health and mental health issues and economic inequality,” said Laura Canter of The Center.
Daniel Garcia is a member of the Voice of OC Youth Media Team.
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