This past Tuesday, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity brought a dozen people from faith communities to join the 150 + immigrant, students and community activists taking part in a statewide action front of the ICE federal building in San Francisco, denouncing the recent immigration raids that are bringing terror and division to our communities.
Participants of the rally holding faith signs
As we arrived at the federal building, we saw a group of protesters already busy in action. Some courageous undocumented young people, along with other supporters, had chained themselves and blocked both ends of the street. Traffic was stopped at a standstill and drivers got out of their cars confused, trying to make sense of what was happening. We divided ourselves into two groups and joined the undocumented youth on both end of the streets, surrounding them,marching in a circle as a sign of support.
Antonio Medrano, a faith lay leader from the East Bay, was one of those who participated in the civil disobedience. “I came from a long history of radical activism, UFW” he shared later of his experience, “I was jailed for the first in 1965 as a Dominican Monk, continued this kind of work with Apartheid, Vietnam war, Guatemala (where I was incarcerated for 3 months). You have to stand even if you are alone. No one can silence the human voice”
Francisco Herrera, guitar in hand, started singing and playing music and chants to keep our spirits alive. As the cries and chants, full of emotion and passion, echoed against the buildings of the busy financial district, crowds of curious bystanders surrounded us.
Pr. Pablo Morataya of Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana of Oakland came with us to join the rally and offer spiritual support. He stopped on both ends of the street, offering prayers of blessing to the ones engaged in civil disobedience, along with some encouraging words, congratulating them on their bravery and assuring them of the supportive presence of faith leaders in this cause.
Our faith delegation from East Bay
A couple of valiant Central American woman shared their poignant testimonies of a raid they experienced. One woman, who came with us from Oakland, shared the horrors of immigration raids where her husband and her two sisters and one brother were detained in an ICE raid in Atlanta, Georgia. Both of her sisters were deported, and she had to take care of 2 nieces. Her brother was deported twice. She told this testimony for the first time, and despite her fears of sharing her story, she decided to open up for the benefit of other people who needed to hear it. She told us how much harsher the situation is for immigrants in Georgia, and for that reason, she decided to move to the Bay Area where immigrants have more rights and protections. She shared in tears the horrible predicament her family went through as they lost the breadwinner and many supporting members of the family. Her testimony, like countless others, is a painful reminder of why we needed to be there in opposition to these heartbreaking and inhumane immigration raids.
In the end, 16 people were arrested. We were done with our action, but not before making clear our demands: we won’t stop demonstrating and organizing until we finally see the too long delayed light of our freedom. We will return time and time again, putting our bodies on the line if necessary, until this nation is able to hear our cries and restore us as rightful citizens of this place we call home.