Long Beach immigration activists are gearing up for a Saturday rally during which they will call for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to get one of their regional offices out of the city.
Four organizations including the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Long Beach chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, LB Interfaith Community Organization and the Community Defense Network are holding the rally together at the Harvey Milk Park in Downtown at 10 a.m.
The ICE office is located in Downtown Long Beach inside the federal building on Ocean Boulevard. Although activists know that the agency does not detain people there, the very fact that agents use the office to write reports and operate still instills fear in the community, said Jordan Doering, who is part of the DSA’s steering committee.
“Basically we want to get their administration office out of Long Beach,” Doering said.
A spokeswoman for the federal agency on Friday night clarified that the ICE office houses Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
In response to the planned rally, the spokeswoman said the agency “fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference, and consistent with federal law and agency policy, continues to focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.”
The groups will also be protesting the “carve-outs” made in the Long Beach Values Act of 2018, which is the resolution that first aligned itself with the state’s sanctuary bill that banned local law enforcement from coordinating with federal immigration officers.
Activists point out that while the resolution prohibits all Long Beach agencies from sharing personal information with ICE, immigrants can still be deported under the carve-outs for crimes listed in SB 54.
“That kind of got lost in the shuffle of everything,” Doering said.
A person would have to be convicted of a felony-level crime listed in SB 54 to be eligible for deportation. Those crimes include rape, hate crimes, torture and gang-related offenses as well as vandalism, money laundering and felony driving under the influence. It also includes past convictions, which activists say double punishes immigrants.
Immigration activists have been working to close those gaps since the resolution was passed in March 2018 and will be protesting them on Saturday, according to Doering.
Within the last few weeks, a man was detained and taken to an ICE processing center in Adelanto, according to Gaby Hernandez, associate director of LBIRC. Hernandez did not know many details of the situation, but the wife of the man called the coalition to report that ICE agents had been in the yard of their house when they detained her husband, she said.
“They were wearing ‘police’ vests, not LBPD, but ‘police,'” Hernandez said. “He was about to head to work and he was detained.”
According to Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for ICE, the agency’s officers and agents are issued uniforms and jackets with “police” and “ICE” displayed on them. The agents initially identify themselves as “police” because it’s a “universally recognized term for law enforcement and our personnel routinely interact with individuals from around the world,” she said via email.
“ICE agents and officers never pretend that they are from any other law enforcement agency,” Haley said.
While Hernandez said she doesn’t know exactly why the man was picked up, she said the man has since been connected with legal aid from the city’s Justice Fund, which provides assistance to Long Beach residents regardless of past convictions.
Hernandez said that the main goal of the rally is to make sure that people are aware of not only ICE’s presence in the city, but also the resources available to immigrants and to get more people involved in the immigrant rights community.
“People are fearful to leave their home, they’re fearful to take their kids to the store,” Hernandez said. “Especially if we have ICE agents wearing police vests.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on July 6 to clarify what ICE uniforms have displayed on them.
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