Immigrant rights activists and musicians rallied in front of Santa Ana City Jail yesterday to lift the spirits of Omara Gomez-Aviles. The Salvadoran mother of three faces possible deportation tomorrow after la migra took her into custody outside the family's East Los Angeles home just last month. The 'Chant Down the Walls' concert protest demanded that Gomez-Aviles be released from Santa Ana city jail and reunited with her loved ones.
The action started in front of the Santa Ana Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) field office. A short march brought activists across the street from the jail where ICE detainees are held due to a city contract with the federal agency.
The Immigrant Youth Coalition, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and RAIZ organized the creative protest event, which has been staged in LA with artists like Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux and Mexican femcee Mare chanting outside the walls of detention centers.
Los Jornaleros del Norte, NDLON's house band, took to their instruments and began playing. The musicians chanted "Free Omara" while opening their sidewalk concert. Right after that, the band invited family and friends of Gomez-Aviles to join them in song.
"I appreciate people coming out and supporting my mother," Omar Hernandez told the Weekly afterward. The 18-year-old high school student set to graduate in June has been separated from his mother ever since ICE nabbed her on February 22, just days after his birthday.
"They were waiting for her outside her house at 9 in the morning," he says. Gomez-Aviles readied to pick up her husband who works as a tamalero. "They handcuffed her right away and put her in their van."
Hernandez's mother fled El Salvador when she was around her son's age. The Central American nation spiraled into a bloody civil war during the 1980s when she left. Before that, Gomez-Aviles got sold off to a sexually abusive older man who forced her into marriage at 13 years old. She sought asylum in the US and worked to help her grandmother back home.
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"We trying to submit an application to delay the procedure," Hernandez says of his mom's impending deportation. "We want to work on getting her an asylum permission or a visa." Until then Gomez-Aviles remains in Santa Ana jail where her son has visited a number of times away from the supportive chants of activists and musicians in solidarity.
"She seems very depressed," Hernandez says. "I tell her to keep her high spirits up."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2