Across the country, and here in Washington DC, community members, faith leaders, immigrants and advocates gathered to celebrate a New Day for Immigration in America, and to lay to rest 8 years of enforcement-only immigration policy at the hands of the Bush administration.
In Los Angeles, COFEM organized a rally to call for an end to the raids and renew their committment to Just and Humane Immigration Reform in the new Obama administration. Over 40 grass root leaders from both COFEM and CHIRLA, gathered at 6:00 am for a blessing from a local Methodist pastor, and then a procession to ICE’s facilities in Los Angeles. They stayed for an hour, chanting “Stop the Raids” and holding minutes of silence for those affected by the broken immigration system.
In Atlanta, a diverse crowd of 40 ABLE members and supporters of immigration reform gathered in front of the ICE headquarters building in downtown. They prayed and sang together before trying to enter the building to deliver a letter to ICE officials. ABLE leaders were met by several security officers as they crowded the gated entryway leading to the building. Security officers physically held the group off the property and demanded that all recording equipment be turned off. After many tense moments a non-ICE official from the building met with the group and eventually escorted one member into the building to deliver the letters to an ICE official. The vigil was a spiritual experience as well as a show of opposition to current piecemeal and inhumane immigration practices. ABLE felt God’s presence as they prayed for Comprehensive Immigration Reform instead of haphazard local enforcement, and they used media coverage of the event to convey their message to the greater community.
Galeo’s Executive Director, Jerry Gonzalez said:
Today, on the first day of the new Obama Administration, we stood with Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment (ABLE) in support of a renewed national effort to support humane, just, rational and comprehensive immigration policy that reflects the values we have as Americans. We join in the celebration of a New Day in America and join in A New Hope for Immigration Reform! We are living in a historic moment of change. President Barack Obama and his election have given the country renewed hope for just and humane immigration reform and worker justice.
In San Antonio, advocates gathered at ICE offices, calling for an end to raids and the closing of the Don T. Hutto family detention center (infamous for being a prison where small children and immigrant families are held).
“Just like he promised to close Guantánamo Bay, we want him to close down Hutto with detained little children,” said Luissana Santibáñez with the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, referring to the ICE family detention center northeast of Austin.
Today, in an encouraging move, Obama signed an executive order to shut down Guantanamo Bay. It seems that the demand for a similar order for a halt to the raids could be a reality.
I will be rounding up pictures and stories from all of the events throughout the day, so be sure to check back for more!