San Diego protest against ICE raids

By Avery Wear

SAN DIEGO--Activists here are preparing protests for immigrant rights after federal immigration agents raided the French Gourmet, an upscale bakery in the city's Pacific Beach neighborhood, on May 15, and arrested 18 workers.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) claimed to be acting on criminal warrants, but the large number of detainees suggests this was yet another case of "collateral" arrests. If so, it would violate a verbal agreement ICE made with local leaders of the faith community to refrain from such action.

After obtaining names and addresses of employees not present at the time of the raid, ICE followed up by invading on-campus housing at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), where French Gourmet employee Jorge Narvaez, a legal permanent resident, is a student. Narvaez, whose mother was deported within the last year, said agents sporting firearms and bullet-proof vests forced him to show identification. Not satisfied with that, they proceeded to search his personal belongings.

"This is wrong. Deporting people and negatively altering their lives is a violation of human rights," said Narvaez. "It's important that we energize people to speak up and learn how to protect themselves from these demoralizing situations."

On May 18, 27 activists from the recently formed May 1st Coalition (the organizer of this year's May 1st march), including several from the UCSD campus, met to discuss how to respond to the raid. A press conference and public forum are scheduled for May 22, with a further organizing meeting scheduled for May 25.

Students are aiming to build support on the campus, to reach out to other workers affected by the raid and their families, and to build a campaign that ties a call for the release of all 18 workers as part of an effort that demands an end to raids and deportations and legalization for all.

The convergence around this raid, enabled by the organizing for May Day, marks a big step toward the formation of an effective emergency response network against raids in San Diego.