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Immigration Raids North Carolina Factory - Asheville Fights Back

by Jeremy Miller |
August 27, 2008
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Banner: End ICE Raids
(Fight Back! News)
Banner: End ICE Raids

Asheville NC - August 16, 2008, 200 protesters gathered in Pack Square, downtown Asheville NC, to march and rally against the raiding tactics of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This came in response to a raid just two days earlier, on August 13th, at Mills Manufacturing - a parachute manufacturer. The majority of arrested workers are from Mexico, but also Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Ecuador. This was the largest raid ever in the western part of North Carolina. Community members immediately rushed to the factory, but were unable to stop the raid.

80 community members met the night of the raid at a local church. Marta told the story, "The workers were told there was a mandatory meeting in a storage room. After management herded them all into one place, they left the room and ICE agents entered and arrested 59 employees. These people committed no crime to be arrested and deported. They work and pay taxes like everybody else." Some local groups saw to the immediate needs of the families, whose only breadwinners are now detained. Others decided to do something, to let ICE know it is not welcome in the community.

The following night, a coalition formed of members from Hispanic Outreach for Learning and Awareness (HOLA), Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and local community groups met to decide to march, rally, and to speak out against the terror tactics of the Bush administration. Protesters with signs saying "Dignity Has No Borders" and "End ICE Raids!" marched through downtown chanting, "If you want peace, raise up your fist! If you want justice, you must resist!”

That Saturday, protesters marched through downtown and ended at Pack Square for a rally and speak-out. Twenty-five student activists were in Asheville meeting for the SDS National Action Camps and left their organizing workshops to join the demonstration. “Undocumented immigrants are some of the most exploited members of our communities and have limited power to fight for their rights due to the threat of deportation. I think that is one of the most important reasons for SDS to stand in solidarity and take direct action”, said Christa Hendrickson from Drew SDS.

Alikhan Salehi, a UNCA Student and co-President of HOLA addressed the gathered crowd. "The Law can be, and often is unjust, and when it is, when this occurs, it is our moral obligation to fight that law. I believe that many years from now, we will look back and see that this is the same rationalization used to oppress immigrants throughout our nations history. The Japanese internment camps during World War II, Italian immigrants a century ago, and Irish immigrants as far back as the 1840's are all examples of this sort of mentality."

Oscar Santana, a Mexicano activist and community member added, "I can't believe I'm hearing that people are happy with the raids. I don't understand how people can be happy that families are being torn apart, and are suffering so much. They are fighting the wrong enemy. If they want to stop immigration, they should fight NAFTA. I would be happy to help in that fight!"