What’s the most appropriate response to raids targeting suspected undocumented workers, including 51 arrested in Auburn last week? A moratorium on such incursions until immigration reform is enacted nationwide.
What if the call for cessation falls on deaf ears? Then resurrect the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s.
This was the two-pronged message voiced by labor, community, and religious leaders at a Feb. 15 press conference at St. Mary’s Church. Seated beneath a stained-glass window illumined by the mid-afternoon sun, the 10 representatives spoke spiritedly of the need to end government-sanctioned raids that link immigration with terrorism, and of a planned community response to protect potential victims who may be ensnared through such actions.
“Our communities are under attack,” proclaimed Jorge Quiroga, president of El Comité Pro-Amnistía General y Justicia Social (The Committee for General Amnesty and Social Justice) at the meeting’s outset.
The most recent assault on the local immigrant community occurred Valentine’s Day, when Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) showed up in Auburn at a pair of UPS Supply Chain Solutions warehouses, two “customs bonded” facilities that handle security-sensitive materials. ICE netted 51 workers — foreign nationals from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala — some of whom, the federal agency alleged, had counterfeited documents in order to secure employment or enter the country.
Most of those detained were employed by the temp agency Spherion, which had, in turn, hired them out to the UPS warehouses. With the exception of up to 10 workers who’ve been freed, the rest remain housed in Tacoma’s Northwest Detention Center, as their cases are still being processed.
According to the ICE website, the agency, which sits under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, deported more than 186,600 undocumented foreign nationals from the country during the last fiscal year. An agency record, the figure represents a 10 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.
Finding such actions as occurred in Auburn “absolutely unconscionable,” the Very Rev. Robert Taylor, dean of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, called on the government to place a moratorium on any future raids until immigration reforms are enacted nationally. Rev. Taylor, who admitted to having been an undocumented worker in the United States himself in the ’80s — he hails from South Africa — said if no action is taken to end such raids, then those who care about morality will be moved to re-enliven the Sanctuary Movement. “We will see it with a new flowering and a new passion,” said Rev. Taylor.
The local arm of that broad, national movement stretched here in 1982, when the University Baptist Church flexed its moral muscles, declaring itself a refuge for those fleeing civil war in El Salvador. After successfully petitioning the city to declare itself a “Sanctuary City,” the church went on to send supplies and relief workers to the war-torn Central American country. Those fleeing unrest there who made it to the Puget Sound area were housed by church and community members.
The movement’s new incarnation would work upon similar principles, though instead of protecting those solely fleeing political strife, houses of worship and community members would open doors to families who may be directly affected by raids. The makeup of the coalition has yet to be revealed.
Having himself arrived in the Northwest from El Salvador during the time of the earlier Sanctuary Movement, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 6 President Sergio Salinas said the current immigration system is outdated and broken. “This attack on immigrant families is not the answer,” said Salinas, while the room of speakers and a handful of spectators nodded or softly said, “Sí.”
Seated two chairs away from Salinas was Araceli Torres, who had brought her infant daughter, Raquel. Asking that the child be placed before her mother, Magdaleno Rose-Avila, executive director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said that as a result of the raid, a number of young children such as Raquel were left in day care after their mothers had been detained. “There should never be a Raquel torn away from her parents,” said Rose-Avila.
The mother, in tears, could hardly speak. Through translation provided by Rose-Avila, Torres, who was not a victim of the raid, said that she was imagining what those mothers must have experienced. “Right now,” she said, “I really feel the pain of the mothers that have been separated from their children.”
A national announcement of a re-enlivened Sanctuary Movement is planned for next month.
By ROSETTE ROYALE, Staff Reporter
For copy of actual issue, go to https://www.realchangenews.org/2007/02/21/feb-21-2007-entire-issue