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Immigrant rights activists say civil disobedience at ICE headquarters a success

by staff |
May 12, 2009
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Sit-in line with riot cops
Thirty people were arrested at May 6 protest to shut down ICE regional headquarters in Bloomington, MN, demanding an end to immigration raids and deportations. (Fight Back! News/Emily Smith)

Bloomington, MN - 30 community members were arrested here, May 6 while committing civil disobedience to shut down the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters and stop deportations for the day. The action was initiated by the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action coalition (MIRAc).

An ICE official stated that the action did not disrupt any of the naturalization ceremonies, but failed to comment on whether or not the goal of stopping deportations for the day was accomplished.

According to Nick Espinosa, who participated in the civil disobedience, “Our civil disobedience protest was successful in calling attention to the ongoing crisis and tragedy of immigration raids and deportations. We got out the message that there is a simple, immediate solution: President Obama can and must sign an executive order declaring a moratorium on raids and deportations.”

U.S. Representative Keith Ellison echoed the message of the protesters: “ICE raids should come to a stop. They’re disruptive and they create fear...it’s critical that it not go off national consciousness.”

A strong community support rally that lasted from 7:00 a.m. until the final arrestee was released around 8:00 p.m. kept the participants in high spirits. However, cases of harassment and mistreatment by the Bloomington police department were reported by those arrested.

The activists were well prepped for the action, thanks to several training sessions, and were fully aware that the only information they were required to give the police was on their drivers licenses. But the police repeatedly misled those being held, claiming that that they could not be processed and released until disclosing their place of birth and social security number. An arrestee noted, “These questions were designed to identify potential undocumented immigrants to report to ICE, so we didn’t want to participate in that system.”

The Bloomington police ultimately released all of those arrested on Wednesday, even though most of the arrestees refused to give their social security numbers, effectively exposing the contradictory statements made by the police. Some were detained for nearly ten hours without food.

When questioned why they required this information, several officers implied it would be used to verify the citizenship status of those arrested. Furthermore, the officers suggested that they regularly turn over undocumented persons to ICE.