(Washington D.C.)- Early Monday morning, over a hundred activists delivered a strong message for the Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas and President Biden: Do your job. During his presidential campaign, President Biden promised to undo the racist policies ramped up under Trump that terrorize immigrants every day, including to end 287(g) contracts. The 287(g) program deputizes local police as ICE agents, tripling ICE’s capacity nationwide. But activists have grown tired of his refusal to take action for two years. Organizers from Voces de la Frontera and Never Again Action traveled from across the country to convene in Washington D.C. to demand immediate action in light of the recent Supreme Court decision that removes all enforcement priorities and makes all 11 million immigrants a target for deportation.
After marching through the street, around 25 people blocked the stairway outside of Mayorkas’ hone with banners that said “End Police-ICE terror: No 287G” while” activists painted the words “End 287(g)” on the street and other protestrors were on the sidewalks singing, chanting, and giving personal testimonies of harm this discriminatory program and deportations cause to families and communities.
“We are using our constitutional rights for free speech and assembly and taking non-violent civil disobedience action,” Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de la Frontera, reminded the dozens of cops encircling the crowd. “We are forced to do this because Biden & Mayorkas have not fulfilled their promise to end this racist and xenophobic program. As an administration that is supposedly standing up against white supremacy and racism, they must prove it by ending the 287g program that legalizes racial profiling. Now is more urgent than ever considering that the US Supreme Court has recently removed enforcement priorities and all 11 million-including children, are in danger of deportation and separation from their families. Mayorkas as a immigrant, son of Holocaust sruvivors and a Latino, should stand against any policy that that forces families to live in fear. If this is a free country, prove it, end 287g now!”
Karina Sanchez, a Voces member and resident of Green Bay, Wisconsin, one of the eight 287(g) impacted communities in Wisconsin, shared with the group, “In 2020 I was part of a delegation of essential workers that met with Kamala Harris, describing the harm and fear that 287(g) agreements causes across communities in Wisconsin as a program which emboldens right-wing sheriff’s to racially profile and seeds fear of law enforcement. Harris gave her word to us in these meetings that she and Biden would end the 287(g) program if elected,knowing that Wisconsin votes would be the difference between winning or losing the General Election. Based on this promise and others made on the campaign trail, I helped organize voters with Voces de la Frontera Action. We mobilized, and Biden won. That was two years ago, and it’s past time for Biden to fulfill his promise. It’s time for President Biden to use his executive action power and end the 287(g) program once and for all.”
Eduardo Perea, a Voces member and immigrant essential worker from Milwaukee, Wisconsin addressed the crowd in Spanish by saying, “President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas are here because of us, because it was us and our children who mobilized the votes that elected them into their positions. President Biden has the power, and the obligation to end 287(g) now, once and for all. Of all the 146 current 287(g) contracts he’s only removed one. President Biden promised us a fair and comprehensive immigration reform but has yet to fulfill his promises. 287(g) is in his hands, at the tip of his pen. He has the power to make it happen, he can end 287(g) with executive order.”
Jessie Thornton called out the consistent pattern of the mainstream democratic party in relation to the immigrant community: “You tell us you will work for us and our rights to get our families who can vote to vote for you. And then when they say immigration is too controversial, you do nothing. Three months from now, [democratic candidates] will make more promises. But we will not believe you until you deliver on the promises you made two years ago.”
Protestors left the action with a call they’ve said before, “We will be back.” The crowd marched with banners and in song gathering in a nearby park after departing from Mayorkas front door. They reflected together on the experience and shared dozens of stories of people who have family who have been detained unjustly through the 287(g) program.
Patrick Juley a Haitian immigrant, shared his story of arrest via the 287(g) program in NJ, when he was deported to Haiti, and immediately detained in Haiti for an indefinite amount of time. “Not only is the administration neglecting the basic dignity and humanity of immigrants across the country, the entire milk industry in Wisconsin depends on immigrant labor,” a community member noted. Nearly 50 participants had driven from Wisconsin to hold the administration accountable.
Immigration activists will continue this campaign until the administration fulfills their promise, the organizers assured the crowd. The next move is on Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden.
287(g) was implemented in 2017 without public input in these eight Wisconsin counties: Waukesha, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Marquette, Brown, Fond du Lac, Lafayette, and Waushara (Learn more here). Together, President Biden and Mayorkas – who is the first Latino and immigrant to serve as Secretary of Homeland Security – are on track to continue and even worsen this legacy, and must take immediate action to reverse course. According to the latest ACLU research report, License to Abuse: How ICE’s 287(g) Program Empowers Racist Sheriffs and Civil Rights Violations, “for the Biden administration, the continuation of these partnerships is not only irrational and counterproductive to its goals, it is an embarrassment.”
Never Again Action is a Jewish-led mobilization against the persecution, detention, and deportation of immigrants in the United States. Voces de la Frontera is Wisconsin’s leading immigrant rights organization whose mission is to protect and expand civil rights and workers’ rights through leadership development, community organizing and empowerment.
Never Again Action: Hallie Berkson-Gold, firstname.lastname@example.org, 914-255-7377
Voces de la Frontera: Jessica Schmidt, Jessica@vdlf.org, 414-469-9206