More than 100 protest ICE

Activists, residents marched to office in Morgan Hill

Protesters gather at the corner of Monterey Road and Tennant Avenue July 12 before marching to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office on Vineyard Court.

A July 12 protest outside a federal immigration office in South County preceded a weekend during which threatened raids and deportations of local undocumented immigrants—according to many accounts—didn’t ultimately materialize.

On Monday, July 15, Eunice Hernandez of Sacred Heart Community Services and the Santa Clara County Rapid Response Network said a volunteer-run emergency hotline she helps manage did not receive any reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity in local communities over the weekend.

Hernandez was one of the lead organizers of the July 12 protest against ICE and federal immigration policies in Morgan Hill. The local Rapid Response Network was a frequent topic of discussion among the protest organizers, as attendees were encouraged to call the hotline any time they see ICE officers making an arrest or conducting an investigation.

The purpose of reporting such activity to the Rapid Response Network is to document any ICE arrests, raids or detentions so that activists and attorneys can ensure the civil rights of those arrested are not violated by federal officers, according to organizers.

Protesters in Morgan Hill on July 12 railed against the administration of President Donald Trump, which has made it a practice to detain every foreign migrant—including asylum seekers—caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border until they are charged and tried, or until their asylum claims are processed. The protesters were also concerned with reportedly crowded, unhealthy conditions in which these migrants—including children—are housed in U.S. detention centers, and ICE officers’ practice of separating families who are caught crossing the southern border until their cases are resolved in the courts.

More than 100 protesters of all ages and backgrounds—including some who traveled from San Benito County—attended the rally. Clergy members from several churches in the area attended, along with activists from Gilroy-based C.A.R.A.S.

The crowd gathered at the corner of Monterey Road and Tennant Avenue and marched to the ICE field office on Vineyard Court, where many of them demanded the facility be closed. The demonstrators held signs denouncing the federal office’s immigration practices and Trump, and supporting civil rights for detainees. They sang peace hymns and chanted slogans such as, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here!”

Morgan Hill resident Susan Betz said, when asked why she was protesting, “I’m appalled at the conditions that children, in particular, are being kept in. I don’t feel like it’s our country anymore.”

As they marched, motorists blew their car horns and shouted at the protesters—mostly in support of the assembly.

Once they reached the cul-de-sac in an industrial zone on Vineyard Court where the ICE office is located, several of the activists spoke about the issues they were protesting.

“We have an administration that refuses to submit to the checks and balances that were constructed in the establishment of our nation’s democracy,” Keith Inouye, pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church, said into a megaphone. “We have an administration that currently plays off and stirs up the very worst in people—hate, prejudice, divisiveness and inability to recognize and tell truth.”

The ICE facility in Morgan Hill is an Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) sub-office for the agency, which falls under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

ICE did not return a phone call requesting comment about the July 12 protesters’ grievances. 

In addition to the Rapid Response Network and C.A.R.A.S., the South County activist group Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) also helped organize the July 12 protest.