By Sandra De Anda, Orange County Immigrant Youth United
Activists briefly blocked traffic in front of Theo Lacy facility in Orange on Saturday in a rally to free immigrant detainees from Orange County jails. They chanted “Sin papeles, sin miedo” (without papers, without fear) while courageous youth hoisted a big, beautiful banner reading “From OC to Adelanto, All the Cages Have to Go!” Resilience OC and the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA) helped organized the action to demand accountability from OC Sheriff Don Barnes after his decision to terminate his department’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) issued a press release on Mar. 27 stating that their “agreement with the federal government to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees will be ended.” Barnes claims that this decision will allow for a maximized use of jail bed space with a focus on the needs of mentally ill inmates. In trying to “improve” the living conditions for local inmates, they will have 120 days to displace the undocumented inmates to other facilities, separating them further away from family outside the walls. This course of action shows that the OCSD is dismissive of undocumented detainees, because it, in itself, creates an entirely new mental crisis for them and their families.
The only answer is to free all those that are detained. “Nobody has to be in there,” Jose Servin, a Santa Ana resident and CIYJA organizer, told the crowd after the march. “They’re just generating profit for ICE.” This message deeply resonates with immigration rights organizers and activists throughout California, including Dianey Murillo who organizes with CIJYA in the Inland Empire. She mentioned in her speech to demonstrators that the same week OCSD terminated its contract with ICE so did the Adelanto city council and that “now more than ever do we have to build solidarity with folks organizing throughout all of Southern California.”
So what’s next in this fight for OC’s immigrant detainees?
“There are three things we as a community have to secure: help with immediate needs, advocacy and organizing, and coordination of legal services,” Robertx Herrera, an organizer with Resilience OC, added at the action. “We have to be prepared to deal with immediate needs. We need to start fundraising for bonds through the OC Justice Fund. Many people are being detained because they don’t have money to be released so the OCJF will help them with their release.”
The activist also called on people to offer housing to detainees released on bond. There’s also an upcoming Truth Act public forum to be held later this month where the Orange County Board of Supervisors is legally-required to discuss the county’s collaboration with ICE. It’s an opportunity to hold supes accountable as the true authors of this crisis.
“The legal strategy is handled by the removal defense warriors, so if you know of anyone someone is detained in Theo Lacy or Musick get a hold of the OC Rapid Response Network,” Herrera also said to the crowd.
The next steps can be the most challenging, but together we can release them all!