Seattle rally against ICE calls out border camps, family separations

Hundreds of people from a number of different groups came to the regional headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to protest the conditions at border camps and policies that separate asylum-seeking parents from their children. (Photo by Guy Oron)

Hundreds of people protested Thursday against the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation along the Mexico-United States border and the ongoing threats against undocumented immigrants at the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The protesters gathered outside of ICE’s regional headquarters in downtown Seattle on Thursday. Recent reports of violence and human rights abuses in ICE-contracted private concentration camps have sparked demonstrations across the country.

This rally was organized by two University of Washington students and supported by over a dozen organizations, was the latest action of resistance against ICE this summer.

“Declaring your desperation for existence, for life, through the form of asylum should never be punished with indefinite detention and mass trials. This is not how we treat people who are only asking to live!” co-organizer Ava Sharifi told the crowd.

Ava Sharifi, center, was one of the co-organizers of a rally against Immigrant and Customs Enforcement. (Photo by Guy Oron)

Other speakers included Matt Remle, Roxanne White, Maru Mora Villapando of La Resistencia and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. There was also a small contingent of far-right disruptors who demonstrated in favor of ICE’s racist policies.

Protesters held signs with phrases such as “Never Again means Never Again” and “Stop Family Separation.” They chanted “Close the camps!” and “Free those kids!”

The rally was supported by dozens of human rights groups including Never Again Action, the Human Rights Defense Center and Close the Camps. (Photo by Guy Oron)

Remle and White, who are members of the Lakota and Yakima and Nez Perce nations, kicked off the rally. They honored the Duwamish people, who are the first peoples of the land now known as Seattle, and emphasized how violence committed by ICE is part of the ongoing settler colonial history that has continued since before the foundation of the United States.

This is not the first time the United States has torn apart families of color, White said.

“It reminds me of the boarding schools. It reminds me of what my grandmother had to go through, and her children and so forth,” White said. “As a grandmother, as a mother, I want us to remember those families. We’re also talking about the borders, but we’re also talking about lives.”

Speakers included Roxanne White (center), a member of the Nez Perce nation. (Photo by Guy Oron)

Mora Villalpando called out US exceptionalism. She warned the protestors not to see Trump as an isolated incident.

“This is not a Trump problem. This is not a private prison problem. This is a United States problem that has existed since the inception of this country,” Mora Villalpando said. “Taking over other people’s land. Making people go into other places as far away as possible. Racializing policies and economics. This is your country and it has been and it will be. And it’s not up to Trump, it’s up to us.”

Immigration rights activist Maru Mora Villapando speaks at a Thursday rally against Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Photo by Guy Oron)

Sawant criticized establishment politicians’ support of free trade deals, military interventions in Latin America, and rolling back protections of immigrants.

“We saw how the Democratic establishment leader Nancy Pelosi pushed through a Senate bill that contained far fewer protections for children than many House Democrats were willing to accept. The bill she advocated, which passed with more Republican than Democratic support, got rid of specific [provisos] like the nine-day time limit on children being held in temporary facilities. Shame!”

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant speaks at a rally at the headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Photo by Guy Oron)