Protesters against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office briefly clogged the U.S. 101 freeway Saturday night, but the demonstration otherwise remained peaceful as it traversed Morgan Hill.
The protest started Aug. 8 at the ICE Enforcement and Removal sub-office on Vineyard Court. Representatives of various activist organizations attended, including Simply Of Service, Black Lives Matter and Gilroy-based C.A.R.A.S.
Demonstrators gathered with signs stating “Abolish ICE,” “No Kids In Cages,” “Fight Ignorance, Not Immigrants” and other slogans.
One of the organizers, who identified himself only as “Z” of Simply of Service, said the goal of the protest was to raise awareness of the “humanitarian crisis” created by ICE policies and immigration detention policies at the U.S. border with Mexico.
He decried the treatment of children in ICE custody and referred to reports of detained minors being lost in the foster care system, and being abused while being detained in the process of crossing into the U.S.
The group demanded that the $10-billion ICE agency be abolished and replaced with another entity. Z suggested that those funds could be more effective if spent on education and social programs.
“This is their eviction notice—a new entity has to be put into place to replace ICE,” said Z. “They have proven over and over again that they lack a sense of humanity… It is unacceptable. It’s a humanitarian crisis in terms of what’s happening to these children.”
The demonstration was organized as part of a national day of protest against ICE, according to organizers. Numerous protests against the immigration agency and its policies took place in other cities throughout the day.
From the ICE office in Morgan Hill, demonstrators marched out to Tennant Avenue and to Monterey Road, continuing north on foot until they reached the city’s downtown. The group of about 200 protesters stopped at the Third Street median where Aztec dancers performed and activists spoke into a PA system.
One of the activists noted that she and many other attendees at the Aug. 8 protest are from out of town, and urged Morgan Hill residents to speak up against the local ICE office.
Morgan Hill Police provided traffic control for the group as they marched to the downtown and back toward the ICE office.
Some of the protesters continued toward U.S. 101 after the demonstration downtown. Police reported that as of about 8:30pm Aug. 8, protesters had clogged both the northbound and southbound lanes of the freeway at Tennant Avenue. Authorities stopped vehicle traffic for less than an hour at Cochrane Road and San Martin Avenue.
By 9:15pm the protesters had moved off the freeway and the lanes were open again to vehicles. No injuries or damage were reported during the protest.
The U.S. ICE office on Vineyard Court is an Enforcement and Removal Operations sub-office for the agency, which falls under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The office has been the target of occasional peaceful protests organized by clergy, activists and members of the public since it opened in 2016.
ICE has been broadly criticized for the conditions and policies under which the agency’s officers detain immigrants at the U.S. border and separate child detainees from their parents.