Reginald Black

A demonstration criticizing local raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency was held outside of the Wilson Building on Aug. 6 by the group Sanctuary DMV. 

 Roughly 30 people showed up, carrying handmade signs and chanting. 

 Members of the organization said at least 12 residents in Washington, D.C., and more in Virginia, were illegally stopped and detained the previous month. They also accused the Metropolitan Police Department of colluding with ICE, contrary to its own policy. 

 “MPD officers are strictly prohibited from making inquiries into citizenship or residency status for the purpose of determining whether an individual has violated the civil immigration laws or for the purpose of enforcing those laws,” according to the MPD website 

However, the department is still bound to assist the federal agency with enforcing criminal law. And despite a July letter of inquiry from D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, ICE has not released any details about the arrests it conducted. 

“It is clear the mayor’s office has been silent on these raids,” said one protestor after trying to visit the mayor.”It’s separating families right here in Washington.” 

The group was told D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser was not present and given a brief meeting with staffers, including Bowser’s general counsel. The group submitted a letter asking Bowser to review the raids and see that all the detainees be released by Aug. 10. However, the mayor’s office does not have this authority and the protesters were told Bowser was unlikely to speak about the specific raids without access to the details. The mayor’s staff instead provided handouts about services available for undocumented immigrants. As of Sept. 10, no details have been released by ICE and there has been no indication anyone will be released.  

 For the second year in a row, the Bowser administration has issued grants that fund legal services for immigrants in Washington. “Since launching the program in January 2017, the mayor has made $500,000 per fiscal year available for the program,” according to a press release. “In fiscal year 2019, Mayor Bowser increased her Administration’s investment in the program to $900,000.” 

These grants began as a response to changes in federal immigration policy, such as the removals of Temporary Protected Status and attempts to end the Deferred Actions For Childhood Arrivals program.  

According to Zuzana Cepla ‘s article posted to Immigrationforum.org, TPS provides funding for more than 300,000 immigrants. In addition, TPS recipients contribute about $4.5 million annually in salary or pre-tax wages, to the U.S. economy. The Pew Research Center reports that  DACA helped roughly 800,000 people since the program’s creation and, as of September 2017, 690,000 are enrolled.  

Since then, a lawsuit appealing the decision to end DACA has kept recipients in limbo. A federal judge ruled on Aug. 17 that DACA renewal applications must continue to be processed until the case is decided. However, new applications are not being accepted and there is more than one lawsuit in play, according to reporting by The Washington Post 

Protestors saw these grants as a hollow gesture, based on their assessment that Bowser was not willing to speak out against ICE raids in her city. 

“While we welcome the training, resources and legal support for immigrant communities, these don’t bring back the people snatched away from our city,” wrote Sanctuary DMV organizer Gaurav Madan in an op-ed published by The Washington Post. “Furthermore, the legal services the mayor’s office is promoting do not apply to people who have already been detained by ICE.” 

Sanctuary DMV has followed the local immigration conversation since the Trump administration transitioned to power. 

Danny Cendejas, an organizer with La Colectiva, attended the August rally in support of his neighbors. “Fist up, ICE down,” he chanted, in both English and Spanish. “We are here today to stand in solidarity with the families, with residents and community members, that are affected by ICE raids in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.”  

He proposed that communities and neighborhoods must organize to protect themselves. 

Cendejas said these raids are nothing new and believes politicians give ICE the tools to terrorize families and communities. “We say ‘no more,’” Cendejas said to the crowd. “We are asking Mayor Bowser, ‘Are you going to be silent?’ We know that silence is complacency. They are complacent with the creation of fear in our community.” 

Also present to voice her concerns was Maha Hilal, an organizer with the Justice for Muslims Collective. “Is Mayor Bowser really a champion of immigrants if she can’t guarantee the safety of our communities?” she asked the crowd. “It’s unfortunate that we have to keep coming back here, time and time again because she wants to consider D.C. a sanctuary city but does nothing to make that happen.”