Migrant workers, children of immigrants, their parents and allies joined together Saturday morning to rally against what they say is an “entanglement” between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE.
“Immigration, not deportation,” was one of the chants at the ICE Out of California rally in front of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.
About 150 protestors marched from the sheriff’s office to an ICE building in downtown Fresno. About a dozen counter-protesters were present, at one point sharing sidewalk space.
Jose Servin, 25, the community coordinator for the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, said Saturday’s rally was personal. He is undocumented.
He said that in the Central Valley, sheriff’s departments ignore state laws that protect people who are undocumented and their families. “They like to cooperate with ICE and to carry out an agenda that doesn’t serve the community,” Servin said.
Organizers said in an announcement that recent ICE arrests at the Fresno courthouse partly inspired Saturday’s rally. Jennifer Rojas, 24, said she works with ICE Out of Fresno, which is part of the statewide ICE Out of California. She said Saturday’s gathering was boosted by people from outside Fresno: “These are not just local folks, they are people who travel from all over California.”
Earlier in the week, Fresno sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said the sheriff’s office had “no problem” with ICE not alerting local authorities of the courthouse arrests. “They don’t need our permission to do their jobs,” he said. “This is a state building. They have access.” He didn’t want to provide judgment on whether it’s appropriate for ICE to carry out arrests at the courthouse and said he would “give discretion on the agency doing the investigation.”
A regional spokesperson for ICE did not return a call Saturday afternoon seeking comment.
Rojas said rallies like Saturday’s are important because there are a large number of immigrants in the region who are often forgotten and have limited resources.
The rally began around 9 a.m. with speakers, and at about 9:45 a.m., the protesters began their roughly five-block march to the ICE building on L Street between Inyo and Mono streets.
As the chanting protesters stood on each side of L Street, Fresno police officers were there to keep everyone on the sidewalks and maintain peace. There were no apparent incidents.
Among the handful of counter-protesters, a man wearing a black shirt labeled “Proud Boys” was holding a “Make America Great Again” flag. Recently, a bar fight broke out in Los Angeles that involved a member of “Proud Boys.”
The group states on its website that members are “Western chauvinists who refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” Proud Boys is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Several of the counter-protesters declined interview requests.
Servin said the counter-protest was expected and jokingly said he appreciated them marching alongside the rally.
“We’re a large community, we outnumber all the bigots who showed up, we’ve marched in over 100-degree weather and we’re not going anywhere,” Servin said. “These marches are going to continue and they are going to transform into policy and transform into social change.”