Revolution #83 Online Edition
Resistance to ICE Raids in San Rafael, CA
"They came for the immigrants, and we were all there"
The following was submitted by a reader in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Immigration agents swept through San Rafael's Canal neighborhood beginning at 5 a.m. on March 6 and March 7. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents fanned out in the heart of the immigrant neighborhood. They yelled “police” and then, when people opened their doors, they asked for people’s papers. Similar raids also took place north of San Rafael, in Novato. (San Rafael is in Marin County, north of San Francisco.)
A 7-year-old San Rafael boy, an American citizen, was handcuffed and taken into custody during an ICE raid, and only later released. The agents shined lights in the faces of young children. They parked their ICE vans across the street from an elementary school. The agents did not allow people to dress, and they led the people through the streets handcuffed and in their underwear. The raids have broken up families, leaving children without one or both of their parents.
ICE claims that they are only targeting those who have failed to obey a deportation order. This would be bad enough! Why should people who come here to work and survive, who are fleeing countries whose economies have been ravaged by the working of a global imperialist system, be criminalized? But it is clear that these ICE raids were aimed at terrorizing and attacking whole communities.
"For every one they picked up, 12 are not named on the warrant,” said Tom Wilson of the Canal Community Alliance (quoted in The Marin Independent Journal, 3/15/07). “That means it's more about people not named in the warrant," he said. "That's really scary—that tells me they're just using the warrant as a way to get in a door into a house."
"The historical analogy I'd make is to 1930s Nazi Germany," Marin County Supervisor Charles McGlashan, said at a hearing on the raids. "Xenophobia in Germany led to the death camps. We need to stop that at its earliest instance."
This raid is part of ICE's “Operation Return to Sender.” These types of raids have taken place all over the U.S since May 2006. Over 18,000 people have been arrested. The government has plans to expand these raids. At present they have 50 teams of ICE agents that carry out these raids. They plan to expand the number of these teams to 75 by September.
And this is just one part of the government’s attacks on immigrants. Other aspects include the increasing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and the so-called “workplace enforcement,” like the March 6 raids that took place in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where over 350 immigrants who were working in very bad conditions for very low wages in a leather factory which manufactures supplies for the U.S. Army.
At Bahia Vista Elementary School, in the area where the San Rafael raids were concentrated, Principal Juan Rodriguez told local newspapers that two students were separated from their parents and 77 children did not show up on the day of the raids. Other schools reported similar rates of students not showing up for school. Those who did attend were too terrified to do much schoolwork. "How can the kids take tests?" Rodriguez asked. "All they can think right now is 'will my parents be taken?'"
School administrators accompanied the children on the school bus ride home and walked them to their doors. One administrator said these children are “lots of little Anne Franks.” Teachers called this the “underground railroad. The Canal Alliance did grocery shopping for immigrants who were unable to go out, fearing that they would be picked up.
On the Friday following the raids, scores of Marin County residents were out in the Canal district at 5 a.m., holding candles and carrying cameras, in opposition to the raids. Many were people from the religious community. No raid happened that morning and the community got a sense that people were with them. According to one account of the morning vigils, available on the Canal Alliance website (canalalliance.org), “Trucks and cars carrying an assortment of humanity, mostly Latino, pulled up to corner stop signs and, seeing the crowd, broke into wide smiles—waving, gesturing thumbs up and honking. A pick-up packed with young workers shouted 'Thank you!' A young woman burst into tears.”
That Friday afternoon, over 100 people demonstrated at a major intersection in downtown San Rafael in a show of solidarity with the immigrants. The chant “No More Raids” rang out during the two-hour rally, and the response from people driving by was overwhelmingly positive. Homemade signs at the protest read, “We Are All Immigrants,” “Is This San Rafael or Nazi Germany?” and “ICE Attacks Families.” A contingent of teachers carried signs with slogans like “Teachers Won't Stand for the Abuse of Their Students.” The local churches and religious people were among those protesting.
About 1,000 packed the community center for a meeting on March 12. That so many immigrants were present after days of raids showed both their courage and the effect of the broad show of support. There were also many non-immigrants present, including, it seemed, many from the more well-off sections of Marin County (which has some of the highest housing prices in the country).
An ex-'60s guy who said he had lived in the community for 19 years said he was ready to “lay it all on the line for the immigrants.” A 12-year-old girl said that she was afraid that ICE would pick up her mother. Whistles were passed out to be used to warn people of any raids.
At one point in the rally a young woman went to the microphone addressing the crowd. “First they came for the communists, but I was not a communist so I said nothing,” she said. “Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I said nothing. Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not one so I said nothing. Then they came for the Catholics but I was a Protestant so I said nothing. Then they came for me, and by then there was no one to speak up for me.” The young woman then looked over the crowd and said, “This time they came for the immigrants and we were all there.”
Many people in San Rafael have taken this struggle to heart. They have felt the pain the immigrants have gone through and have put themselves on the line which in turn has given the immigrants a feeling that they are not alone in this fight. There have been many raids from one end of the U.S. to the other and people in San Rafael are setting a good example—as the young woman in the meeting said, when the Migra came, “This time we were all there.”
It is intolerable to see whole sections of the people in this country being terrorized and to see families broken up. These raids and the whole fascist attack on immigrants must be STOPPED!
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