Los Angeles, CA — On Sunday, June 23, the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights L.A. (CHIRLA), in conjunction with other organizations, gathered a crowd of approximately 300 people outside the Metropolitan Detention Center to protest the separation of families, as well as raids, inhumane detention centers, and deportations. The protests, which began on the day when President Donald Trump initially threatened to deport “millions,” were scheduled to go on through at least Thursday.
“To all our immigrant family, we want to tell you, you are not alone, the majority of Americans don’t want you deported,” said Angélica Salas, Executive Director of CHIRLA, during her address. “This is wrong, our children deserve their parents…these are our children, our brothers and sisters and we want them to know that we will fight relentlessly for them,” she added.
As speakers denounced the administration’s so-called terror tactics, detainees could be heard tapping on the windows from upper floors of the building of the detention center. The crowd waved at them and yelled “we hear you”, followed by chants such as “undocumented and unafraid,” “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido” (“the people united will never be defeated”) and “Trump escucha, estamos en la lucha” (“Trump, listen, we are in struggle”).
“This is a horrible time in American history, their human rights are being violated,” said Salas. “To this president, who doesn’t have a heart, who doesn’t have morals, we tell him that we will fight with everything we got to keep our families together,” she added.
The program started with Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels who spoke about Jewish refugees and immigrants. “Trump, there is a cold concrete floor and an aluminum blanket waiting for you,” Rabbi Comess-Daniels said.
Testimonies were also given by two teens. One of them, Liliana García, a DACA recipient, described how her cousin went missing in El Salvador in 2013 on his way to school.
“He was being forced by gang members to work for them charging rent in his neighborhood,” described García. She then went on to describe seven days of agonizing search, adding that “his body was found in one of our properties…he was tortured, with body parts missing.”
“These kind of things are still happening…and I know that if he were alive still, he would have come in those caravans,” she said.
State Senator María Elena Durazo, a former union leader, was also one of the key speakers.
“In California, we are very proud that we have become more pro-workers and pro-immigrant, but sisters and brothers, we are not at the point that we can say all is done, there is so much more to do…in California, our tax dollars are being used to help refugees, being used for legal representation, that is how we are using our tax dollars now compared to 25 years ago when [former Governor] Pete Wilson was using it for deportations,” Senator Durazo said. “That is what Trump is doing today. He, like Pete Wilson, thinks that he is going to get elected because of his hatred and his racism to built support…we need to get out and vote,” she added.
Durazo told Latino Rebels that while Wilson might’ve used anti-immigrant rhetoric to get ahead, the state has come a long way.
“Look at us now, we are more pro-immigrants and a beacon of light across the country,” she said, adding that “immigrants and undocumented [people] pay billions in taxes and sales taxes, they buy homes, they work on key industries such as hospitality.” The senator is currently working on getting healthcare for undocumented families. She explained to Latino Rebels that the process has been challenging and that some Democrats are afraid.
“It is a hard battle. We have people on the State Senate floor calling Mexicans and immigrants ‘invaders.’ There are still those voices from the past saying these things when Mexicans and Native Americans have been here way before White Europeans were here…Trump’s anti-immigrant, hateful rhetoric encourages others,” Durazo said.
Assemblymember Miguel Santiago also spoke to the crowd, suggesting that Trump would do anything to get re-elected.
“We have seen this playbook before, Trump thinks that he can get re-elected and still hate and scare people. When he first started his election, he called immigrants thieves, he called them rapists, he called them every name on the book and we thought that it wasn’t going to work, but there are people out there that believe him,” warned Santiago. “What he is doing is plain and simple electoral politics. It is not a coincidence that he announced raids right before his first campaign rally kick off; it is not a coincidence that he will continue to attack immigrants, he attacked Muslims, he has separated families…he would do anything to get reelected. But I remind you that we took back Congress and we will take back the White House,” he added.
President Trump tweeted on Saturday, one day before the deportations were set to begin, that the raids were being delayed for two weeks to allow Democrats and Republicans to “work out a solution.” Some said that this is typical of his volatile behavior and scare tactics.
At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019
Carlos Amador, an immigrants rights leader, called out local officials who supported deportations.
“Here in Los Angeles County, we have Sheriff Villanueva who ran a campaign to get ICE out of [county] jails, and what did he do? He got ICE out of the jails but then he got ICE contractors to do the job for ICE agents to interview people and transfer them for deportation,” Amador explained. “The deportation pipeline continues in LA County…we need to hold Sheriff Villanueva accountable just as we are holding Trump accountable and we need to do this at the polls as well,” he added.
Phal Sok, of Youth for Justice, was also one of the speakers during the rally. He spoke of his plight as a teen, and how he was tried and convicted as an adult while in the juvenile justice system. A child of Vietnamese immigrants, Sok was pardoned years later.
The protest lasted a few hours into the evening. It was peaceful and followed by a candlelight vigil in honor of those that have died while being in U.S. custody.
Francisco Lozano is a freelance news photographer based in Los Angeles. You can follow him @FrancisLozano7.