December 11, 2008

Protest calls for immigration reform

Supporters demonstrate outside Camarillo detention center

Leaders of local business and community groups called for immigration reform Wednesday in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Camarillo.

Supporters held signs as speakers called for a moratorium on deportations and for respect for immigrants' rights next to a barbed-wire fence surrounding several white ICE vans near the Camarillo Airport.

"They separate working families, do nothing to protect us from terrorists and undermine the economy," said Maricela Morales, associate executive director of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, a co-sponsor of the protest.

The date was chosen to coincide with the United Nations' adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948.

"It's hard to believe there is a detention center here in Camarillo," said Ana Cristina Flores, a Central Coast Alliance supporter from Oxnard. "You see all the fields, and the people working on them are being detained right across the street."

Gabriela Navarro-Busch, an immigration attorney, said she had tried earlier Wednesday to meet a client being held at the Camarillo facility and was denied. She said she has tried several times to meet with other clients at the facility without success.

"At the county jail, I can go any time," Navarro-Busch said. "These workers have rights. The right to remain silent and the right to counsel Are these individuals' rights being upheld?" she asked rhetorically.

Anyone who is arrested has the right to seek relief from deportation, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. Immigration courts review the cases and apply the law, she said.

"Our job as a federal law enforcement agency is to enforce the laws as enacted by Congress. We don't have the authority to change it or the prerogative to ignore it," Kice said.

ICE is pursuing cases in Ventura County and recently deployed a team here to better handle immigration cases involving fugitives, Kice said.

"The fact that ICE is putting a team in Ventura County is completely ridiculous when you think about who is here," said César Hernández, a Central Coast Alliance community organizing director in Oxnard. "What kind of risk does a farmworker pose, does a mother pose, or a student without legal documentation?"

Hernández recently returned from Washington, D.C., where he participated in a forum in which local activists urged leaders to make immigration reform a priority in the first days of the Obama administration.

"People shouldn't be separated and deported because Washington hasn't gotten their act together," Hernández said. "It's up to the people to get involved."

No comments: