Houston protest against ICE raids

By Laura Taylor

HOUSTON--Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained 166 immigrant workers following a raid on Action Rags USA on June 23.

In the early morning hours, as many as 200 federal agents swept through the rag-sorting factory and took more than 170 workers--a majority of them women, some of whom are currently pregnant--to a processing facility. Although 16 employees were released after their legal status was determined, the majority remain in ICE custody with the possibility of deportation looming.

Concerns have been raised about the treatment of the workers by ICE during the raid, because four employees were injured and had to receive medical treatment.

Family and friends of the workers gathered at the site of the raid to find out what was happening to the workers. Bernardo Olvera, whose sister Juana Maria works at the plant, told the Houston Chronicle, "The people here are just working. They're not doing anything wrong. These women are hard workers; they're not criminals."

The Houston immigrant rights community is not allowing ICE to conduct these raids without a response. Local organizations, including the Central American Resource Center and the Service Employees International Union, organized a protest for the day after the raid in front of Leeland Federal Building in downtown Houston.

More than 80 activists turned out to chant, march and show their opposition to ICE raids designed to provoke fear in the immigrant community.

At an organizing meeting held after the protest, activists made plans for another protest on at the Houston Processing Center, where detainees were being held, and for an Emergency Response Network in Houston, so that raids can be more effectively responded to in the future. Activists in Houston are determined to stand up to intimidation of ICE officials and make Houston a safe place for all workers.