More than 80 immigration advocates marched in the streets of downtown Santa Ana Wednesday evening to protest last week’s U.S. Supreme Court vote that blocked President Obama’s plan to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, and demand more action from Obama.
Shouting slogans like “No Papers No Fear”, the protesters started their march on Third Street and then headed down Main Street. From there, the protesters took over the right lane of Civic Center Drive as they marched to the steps of the Santa Ana Police Department.
The Supreme Court’s 4-4 vote blocked a 2014 executive order by Obama to allow undocumented immigrants who were the parents of citizens or of lawful permanent residents to be spared from deportation. The program was called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA.
It is an issue as important to Santa Ana as perhaps anywhere else. Orange County is home to about 274,000 undocumented immigrants, the fourth-largest undocumented population among counties in the United States. And Santa Ana is known to have one of the largest concentrations of undocumented immigrants in the nation.
An estimated 43,000 Orange County residents are protected under the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which allows undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. as children to obtain work permits and be exempt from deportation. An additional 93,000 county residents would have been protected had DAPA been allowed to go forward.
Protestors Wednesday said Obama still has room to act despite the high court’s decision.
“The Supreme Court decision was only over deferred action programs. President Obama still has a lot of power to exercise,” said Hairo Cortes, the program coordinator of the Orange County Immigrant Youth United (OCIYU). “We would like to see Obama place a moratorium on all deportations.”
Before the march, Cortes congratulated those assembled for their activism, saying: “The most amazing thing is that you are all out here and you aren’t content with the decision. That’s powerful.”
Alexis Nava Teodoro, a member of the National Day Laborer Organization Network and a deportation defense coordinator for RAIZ, an organization specializing in protecting communities from deportation, said the only solution is for the community to organize.
“They treat us like we aren’t human, we are not just objects for them to push around,” Teodoro said. “We want to see full liberation. Full human rights.”
“We know that there is no such thing as the golden cage,” said Roberto Herrera, a member of DeColores Queer Orange County. “Safety doesn’t just mean more police. Its social services that keep us safe.”
Herrera talked about how he has witnessed the Santa Ana Police Department targeting queer and transgender Latinos by arresting them and sometimes deporting them without reasonable grounds to do so. “Obama said that he can’t do anything else. But he can. He can end Latino, trans and queer deportation,” said Herrera.
From the police department, the protesters moved on to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department headquarters chanting “Listen Hutchens, immigration is none of your business,” referring to OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.
They stopped to deliver more speeches and testimonies about their feelings on deportation and the effect it’s had on their lives.
Their final stop was the steps of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building where protesters continued to chant and give speeches.
“All this oppression has brought us together. [Similar protests] happened in Georgia and in Arizona. This is not an isolated event or march, the whole nation is connected,” Herrera said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ name. We regret the error.
Kaitlin Washburn is a news intern from the University of Missouri. She can be reached at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter: @kwashy12.