Monday, May 15, 2006
Demonstration Held to Protest ICE Raids in Southwest Detroit
Activists see this as escalation of anti-immigrant backlash
Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
DETROIT--A group of local activists rallied today outside the Immigration offices in Detroit, located on East Jefferson at Mt. Elliot, to protest a raid that was held Friday on the southwest side.
The raids were conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security. According to witnesses anywhere between 16 and 30 people were arrested.
Activists claim that this was a direct response to the mass demonstrations that have been held in recent weeks in support of the civil rights of the immigrant community in the United States. The local affiliate of National Public Radio (NPR) reported that 15 of those who were arrested in the raid were released on bond. At least one was immediately deported from the United States.
At today's event, several activists spoke out against the raids as well as the Bush administration's plans to send 6,000 national guard troops to the border with Mexico.
During the rally one man came into the crowd and began screaming about the need to protect US borders and for all immigration to be legal. David Sole of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) took the bullhorn and stated that "the only people who are truly legal in this country are the Native Americans."
One slogan advanced by the crowd was "Build Levies, Not Walls". During the demonstration an ICE official came out from the public relations division to make a statement to the media. At the same time during the demonstration, several federal police agents periodically walked around the crowd with their guns visible in a holster. The crowd was also monitored from an upstairs window at the building.
There have been two major marches in Detroit over the last several weeks. The March 27 demonstration attracted tens of thousands of people from the Latino community on the southwest side. The event was held in opposition to the passage of HR 4437. This march and rally took place in conjunction with similar actions across the United States.
Again on May 1, the Latino community held a rally and march in connection with the "Day Without Immigrants" national mobilization.
In Bush's adress on national television tonight, he confirmed plans to further militarize the border with Mexico.
Below are announcement for today's demonstration as well as an article that appeared on the front page of the Detroit Free Press.
On Friday, May 12th, there was a raid in our community and several people were taken by Homeland Security (ICE). We understand that several people were taken away in three unmarked vans, and the witnesses stated that the agents told the people that no warrants were needed. About 30 people are believed to have been taken.
While we do not have the experience here to know how to respond to such atrocities, we know that we cannot stand idly by. This is a terrifying time in our history in Detroit; not since the repatriation of the 1930s has our community been under such siege.
Please join us at Jefferson and Mt Eliot tomorrow at 12:00 noon to protest the raids and strategize on how to protect our community from further aggression.
LOCAL REACTION: Activists say troops not answer
BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
May 15, 2006
At 8 tonight, President George W. Bush will address the nation from the Oval Office.
The president will highlight his plans to curb illegal immigration and improve border security.
The major networks are expected to carry the speech live.
Rally in Detroit
A rally is planned for noon today outside the federal immigration office at 333 Mt. Elliott St., off Jefferson Avenue in Detroit. The demonstrators plan to protest the raids Friday in southwest Detroit that resulted in the arrests of 17 immigrants suspected of living in the United States illegally.
The Canadian border
The border between Canada and the United States is often called the world's longest undefended border between two countries.
The Detroit-Windsor connection is its busiest point. The two main crossings locally are the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. About 9.4 million vehicles crossed the bridge last year.
Since the September 2001 terrorist attacks, officials have taken a closer look at security along the border. In his speech tonight, President George W. Bush is expected to focus on security at the border with Mexico. But the Bush administration previously has called for a plan that would require people to have passports to cross the U.S.-Canada border. Some say that would greatly decrease tourism on both sides, because only 22% of Americans and 38% of Canadians have passports.
The U.S. Coast Guard is beefing up security on the waterways along the U.S.-Canada border. Over the past year, it has conducted security and terrorism exercises with Canadian law enforcement.
Most undocumented immigrants come through the United States' southern border, but over the past year, enforcement agents have caught people trying to smuggle immigrants from Asian countries into Detroit from Canada.
Associated Press, Free Press staff
Concerned about immigration raids in metro Detroit, activists are planning to rally today in front of a federal immigration office in Detroit as the Bush administration considers the deployment of troops along the Mexican border to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants.
The arrests Friday of 17 immigrants in southwest Detroit suspected of living in the country illegally has unnerved the local Hispanic community and underscored tensions over what to do about the country's millions of undocumented immigrants.
At noon today, people protesting the raids plan to rally outside the federal building on Mt. Elliott Street, off Jefferson. Tonight, President George W. Bush may announce in a televised speech that he plans to ask the Pentagon to deploy National Guard troops along the U.S. border with Mexico.
But immigrants and their advocates in metro Detroit say that in addition to border security, Bush should announce plans to help undocumented immigrants become U.S. citizens.
"The country has a right to a safe border, but let's do it in a smart way," said Juan Escareno, an immigrant organizer with the Detroit-based coalition MOSES, or Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength. "If we focus only on border security and don't look at the whole picture, we're doomed to commit the same mistakes. ... Every time you increase border security, there is an increase in immigration because people are going to find a way here."
Escareno, who helped organize recent immigration rallies in Detroit, said Bush should help put "undocumented immigrants living here on a path to citizenship."
Bush's planned speech comes at time of anxiety for some Detroit immigrants. The raids Friday took place at homes in southwest Detroit, considered the center of the Mexican-American community in the region.
Agents with the fugitive operations team of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were looking for three immigrants who had ignored previous deportation orders, said Michael Keegan, a spokesman for the agency.
The agents found only one of the targeted immigrants, but ended up arresting 16 others who were suspected of living in the country without proper documentation, Keegan said.
Those arrested included children, said Elena Herrada, a Detroit activist.
"It's really scary," Herrada said. "They can just go in your home and take you away."
Herrada said the country needs an amnesty plan for the millions of undocumented immigrants to help them become citizens. Regarding Bush's possible call for deploying troops along the border, Herrada said the U.S. military is already overstretched with operations around the world.
"Where are they going to come from?" she asked.
Local legislators will be paying attention to what Bush says.
But one said more than troops are necessary to solve the
"The notion that we're going to somehow police ourselves out of an immigration problem is a far-fetched promise," said state Rep. Steve Tobocman, D-Detroit, whose district is made up of large numbers of immigrants from Latin America, Europe and the Middle East.
Moreover, he said he had some questions as to how such a policy would be implemented: How much would it cost? Would it be an imposition on the armed forces? Who would pay for it?
Bush should talk about comprehensive immigration reform and how immigrants can become U.S. citizens, he said.
"People who are working, contribute to the economy, particularly those who have established employment history, and have skills and education, we should figure out how to welcome those," Tobocman said.
Isabella Ramirez, a Detroit resident who often assists immigrants, said that Bush should address how to deal with the 100,000 to 150,000 undocumented immigrants living in Michigan. They're among the 11 million to 12 million such people in the United States, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
"I agree with him that there needs to be some sort of control, but we also need to figure out what to do" about the undocumented immigrants, Ramirez said.
"We just want immigrants to get a chance to get the American dream, just like everyone else," she said.
Contact NIRAJ WARIKOO at 248-351-2998 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this report.