Dozens of protesters were taking part Tuesday in a daylong protest at the West County Detention Facility at 5555 Giant Highway to denounce the detainment of undocumented immigrants at the facility and to demand that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) be abolished.
Mid-morning during the protest, which was set to run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., participants were marching in a circle around a giant red sign stating, “Abolish ICE,” and chanting phrases such as, “What do we want? Abolish ICE! When do we want it? Now!”
The language mimicked calls from some Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), who introduced legislation Monday to abolish ICE, “citing the Trump administration’s handling of the agency,” according to The Hill.
The heated national debate over federal immigration policies recently gained steam after the Trump administration announced a “zero tolerance” initiative against illegal border crossings. The policy led to protests against the separations of families, including children from their parents, at the U.S.-Mexico border.
ICE is “a symptom of a deeper problem” regarding immigration policies in the U.S., Edward Wright told Bay City News from the Richmond protest. ICE was formed in 2003 through the Homeland Security Act with the aim of better protecting national security and public safety following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Local activists say the problem is not just at the border, but across the nation including in Contra Costa County, where hundreds of undocumented immigrants are detained at the Richmond jail and separated from their families.
Meanwhile, Bay Area lawmakers, including Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, are rallying against an internal U.S. Navy memo unveiled Friday that listed Concord Naval Weapons Station as a possible location for an detention camp serving 47,000 immigrants.
“We are understandably concerned that such a drastic proposal is being considered without community input or notification,” according to a letter sent by about a dozen Bay Area lawmakers on Tuesday to U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. Read the full letter here.
Last week amid mounting pressure, President Trump signed an executive order ending the process of separating children from families after they are detained crossing the U.S. border illegally. But the president said he would maintain the “zero tolerance” policy of criminally prosecuting all adults caught crossing the border illegally, citing the need to keep out violent criminals and to discourage dangerous crossings outside legal ports of entry.
Tuesday’s protest was supported by more than a dozen local activist organizations including the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition and Richmond’s RYSE center for youth.