On Saturday, Nov. 14, hundreds marched through the streets of San Francisco to demand that President-elect Biden close the ICE concentration camps, abolish ICE, and free all detained immigrants.
The demonstration was endorsed by more than 20 Bay Area progressive organizations working with the Free Them All SF Coalition, of which the Party for Socialism and Liberation is a member. The event was planned weeks before the election knowing that neither Biden nor Trump propose an end to this injustice. In fact, this action came just one day after the appointment of Cecilia Muñoz to Biden’s transition team; Muñoz previously served as top immigration advisor to the Obama administration and defended family separations.
“We have to remember that Joe Biden was vice president of an administration that increased deportation by 1 million people from the previous administration. He said this was a huge mistake during the debates, but, according to his immigration plan, he plans to increase the military and surveillance power at the border,” said Kevin Sun, a member of Democratic Socialists of America East Bay.
The Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants has not been any less horrific. In mid-September, a nurse who worked at an ICE facility reported “jarring medical neglect” of immigrants, including refusals to test for COVID-19, manipulation of medical records, and potential forced hysterectomies according to a complaint filed by civil rights group Project South.
PSL organizer Jael Castro said: “Today, in November, there’s 13 times higher cases of COVID in these detention centers. There’s forced sterilization of immigrants in these detention centers. And what are we going to do? We’re not going to stay quiet; we’re taking to the streets.”
Attendee Lisa Navarro spoke on the increasing number of immigrants being forced into ICE facilities over the past 30 years. In 1994, there was “roughly 5,000 immigrants in detention centers,” today they “hold about 500,000 immigrants each year,” she said.
One of the immigrants stolen from their family and forced into a detention facility in 1998 was Navarro’s own father. “I haven’t seen my dad in 20 years,” Navarro said. “My kids don’t even know their own grandfather. Because of my father’s deportation, my childhood growing up was very challenging. My family was torn apart. My mother was broken down into pieces.”
For Navarro, the pain from her father’s forced removal was resurfaced recently when her children’s father was taken and put into a detention facility: “History is repeating itself. I lost my father and now my kids have lost their father. When is it going to end?”
Those deported from the U.S. are forced to return to the countries they were fleeing violence from. Violence created by “the wars and the coups and the dictatorships the U.S. imposes on countries around the world,” said Castro. “It’s because of imperialism.”
Many more speakers also addressed the longstanding pattern of U.S. government intervention in sovereign nation’s affairs in the name of profit, and called for the end of U.S. wars abroad.
Protesters then marched to Taylor Street Facility Housing, a for-profit halfway house owned by GEO Group and located in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. According to a 2016 contract facilitated by the California Department of Corrections, GEO has received $13 million from the state for this project. Money that could be used for real treatment and community programs for the formerly incarcerated. “How are you going to have a company that’s responsible for bringing people back into society while also incarcerating other people?” Sun added.
U.S. corporations have played a pivotal role in the expansion of detention centers and maintaining the prison industrial complex.
While Taylor Street residents looked on from the building’s windows, transgender activist, historian and filmaker Susan Stryker spoke about the various rehabilitative and community purposes the building could meet if it weren’t owned by a glorified for-profit prison company. Some residents chanted “close the camps” from the windows and other Tenderloin residents joined in the protest.
‘Housing for the people, shut down ICE’
As the march left the neighborhood toward the closing rally, protesters echoed the chant “housing for the people, shut down ICE!” to point out the contradiction of vast resources being spent on incarceration while thousands sleep in the streets of the Tenderloin.
U.S. corporations and the military cross borders freely to make maximum profit. And they continue to profit from people who come to the U.S. fleeing these policies, by locking them up in inhumane conditions.
We must continue the mass resistance, regardless of who is in the White House and fight to let them in and free them all! End raids and deportations; abolish ICE! Amnesty and full rights for all immigrants! Health care and economic relief for all! Down with U.S. imperialism!
¡La lucha obrera no tiene fronteras! The workers’ struggle has no borders!