See the latest updates at the bottom of the post on the release of arrested OC DREAMers.
ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 7, 6:03 A.M.: Saturday marked a national day of action against President Barack Obama's raging deportation mill, with rallies under the banners of "Not 1 More" and "2 Million 2 Many." The Orange County DREAM Team's (OCDT) actions included freeway banner drops and a press conference at the Garden Grove office of Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.
Last month, DREAMers began asking Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members to call out the Deporter-in-Chief on his administration's record-breaking deportations. Some did just that.
The Weekly wondered aloud if Sanchez would follow suit. Predictably, she didn't.
The OCDT delivered a letter to the congresswoman on Saturday asking her to jump on board, but it wasn't the first time they've done so. As the letter reads...
Last summer, during the earlier days of this campaign, Orange County Dream Team asked you to join us in calling for a stop to the deportations and expansion of Deferred Action. We did so during meetings with your District Director Gaston Castellanos, and when we spoke at Tefere Gebre's going away dinner. At the time you declined to support us, but that can be rectified.
The two-time dismissal didn't stop OCDT from issuing its three demands to the congressman that she publicly come out asking for President Obama to halt deportations, expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy for all 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, and ask that other CHC members join the chorus.
Joining OCDT in its "Best Regards" sign off are the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance and the National Queer and Transgender Latino Alliance.
Pro-immigrant activists ended the day's actions in San Juan Capistrano with a candlelight vigil. La migra hit South OC city with raids late last month that ended in the detention of Victoria Delgado Arteaga and her cousin Oscar Simbras. RAIZ and community members rallied around Delgado, who has no criminal record but does have six children and 11 grandchildren, until her release last Monday. Immigration authorities deported her cousin that same day.
Will Congresswoman Sanchez be swayed by such stories of family breakups and take a DACA for all stance? "As a member of both the Homeland Security Committee and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Ms. Sanchez' voice carries weight and will go a long way toward pressuring the President to change course and stop the deportations," said OCDT's Amy Yu. The grassroots group followed up last weekend's actions and sent members to Washington D.C. today as part of a coalition rally continuing to put pressure Sanchez and Congressman Xavier Becerra. The social media strategy includes the hashtag #SanchezDeports and congressional office sit-ins are currently taking place!
An article in yesterday's edition of the New York Times noted that since Obama took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportations affected those with no criminal records or minor infractions at best.
Maybe the congresswomen can heed the call of immigrant rights activists before Obama himself comes to Anaheim in June to deliver UC Irvine's 50th anniversary commencement speech at Angel Stadium.
FIRST UPDATE, APRIL 7, 11:54 A.M.: Three OC DREAMers who staged a sit-in at the D.C. office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez earlier today have been arrested. Luis Ramirez, Dulce Saavedra, and Jonathan Bibriesca wanted to ratchet up the pressure on the lawmaker on the issue of President Obama's deportations and prepared statements prior to risking arrest.
"I'm here to demand that Loretta Sanchez pushes President Obama to stop deportations and bring relief by expanding Deferred Action," Ramirez said. "This is crucial especially for LGBTQ community members placed in detention who often times have extra needs such as hormone therapy and HIV medication."
"By not urging president Obama to stop deportations and expand Deferred Action for all, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is part of the current administration's deportation machine," Bibriesca said. "[She] needs to speak up against deportations because families in our district and nationwide continue being ripped apart just as mine was a few years ago," Dulce Saavedra added.
Hairo Cortes of the Orange County DREAM Team and California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance tells the Weekly that the three activists are still in detention and that there's the possibility they will remain so overnight.
Watch a ustream video here where activists urged supporters to call both the offices of Sanchez and Congressman Xavier Becerra who got hit with a sit-in protest as well. SECOND UPDATE, APRIL 8, 10:42 A.M.: Three OC DREAMers arrested in the D.C. office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez haven't been released yet, but are expected to go before a judge later today. In the meantime, Sanchez sent the Weekly the following statement regarding the sit-in protests over record deportations under the Obama administration:
I was on a flight from California to Washington, DC, when a group of activists began protesting in my DC office. I always appreciate when young people want to come and have their voices heard. Because I was not there my staff offered to meet with them, but the protesters refused. When the protesters refused to engage in meaningful dialogue and became disruptive by chanting loudly and sitting on the floor in our meeting space, my staff made the determination to call support from the Capitol Police. The protesters were given repeated offers from the officers and individuals within their own organization to leave without arrest, but unfortunately chose not to leave. I have formally responded to a letter the protesters left behind and I hope it conveys what really matters - that I am on their side.
The response Congresswoman Sanchez refers to came in the form of a letter released today. Addressed to the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, she notes her background as a daughter of immigrants before stating she's consistently denounced 287 (g) agreements and the Secure Communities program that fuel deportations nationwide.
"Though we can ask to stop excessive deportations, the fundamental problem is our broken immigration system and I will continue to fight for passage of comprehensive immigration reform in the House of Representatives," Sanchez wrote. "Just last month I signed a discharge petition that would force a vote on H.R. 15, the House's version of the Senate immigration bill."
We're sure local immigrant rights activists still in D.C. will have something to say about the comments made by Congresswoman Sanchez soon enough. Stay posted!
THIRD UPDATE, APRIL 8, 2:45 P.M.:After spending the night in jail, three OC DREAM Team members have finally been released. Luis Ramirez, a 26-year-old resident of Santa Ana, was among them and gave an interview to the Weekly right after getting out.
The activist first recalls his experience of the sit-in at the D.C. office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. "When we got there, we had a letter of demands and began reading them out loud," Ramirez says. The trio of DREAMers handed out copies of the letter as well. "Her staff completely disregarded what we had to say." The account differs from Congresswoman Sanchez who stated her staff offered meaningful dialogue only to be refused.
U.S. Capitol police came in and arrested the immigrant activists. They now face obstruction charges. "We got detained and taken to the headquarters of the police station. From there we got processed to the detention center," Ramirez recalls. As he gave his interview, he complained of a hunger related headache.
"We were given very little food. They gave us two sandwiches and raspberry juices in 6 oz cups," Ramirez says. He spent the night in his cell alone. The three sit-in activists stayed in detention from 4 p.m. until around 7 a.m. this morning. Once transferred out, it took them five hours to see an attorney before appearing in front of a judge at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
The experience was an ordeal to say the least for Ramirez who is also a member of the National Queer and Transgender Latino Alliance. He took notice of all the dirty looks from officers because his nails are painted. When locked up in the company of those facing violent crime charges including attempted murder, he did his best to hide his nails.
Having read the statement released by Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez on the sit-in protest and arrests, Ramirez is unswayed by her notion that she is on their side.
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"She has the power to push the president in a more public way. If we have leaders like Sanchez, who is a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Homeland Security Committee, do what is right, then we can take the first step toward immigration reform through expanding DACA for all."
"She is failing and betraying the Latino community," Ramirez says. "She's supporting deportations."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz