Protesting Border Patrol recruiters

September 3, 2008

ROCHESTER, N.Y.--Activists came out to protest a U.S. Customs and Border Protection recruitment event at the Clarion Hotel in downtown Rochester on August 16.

Inside, recruiters handed out badges and whistles that said "U.S. Border Patrol" and showed videos glamorizing "keeping our borders safe." But outside, activists responded with the message that nothing is glamorous about the Border Patrol's real job--terrorizing immigrant workers.

About 30 Rochester activists led chants and held signs outside the hotel in Spanish and English, demanding legalization for immigrant workers and an end to the raids and deportations. Numerous drivers honked in support of the protest, and a couple people from a nearby bus stop picked up signs and joined the demonstration.

The protest drew attention from two local news stations, and the Border Patrol sent a representative down to tell the demonstrators, "People are just looking for jobs." As one activist rightly responded, "Immigrants are just looking for jobs, too!"

The Border Patrol recruitment event came after a series of raids in Rochester and surrounding areas. According to Roberto Resto of the Rochester Alliance for Immigrant Rights, over 2,000 immigrants have been rounded up and deported from the Western New York area over the past two years.

Speakers from Rural and Migrant Ministry detailed how Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have detained members at a local church in Batavia, N.Y. Since then, the church has literally emptied, as the congregation now stays home in fear. One sister of the church described young children coming to her and asking if she knows where their mothers and fathers are, because they haven't come home.

In July, the Monroe County sheriff appointed himself the role of ICE and took into custody 12 immigrant construction workers, who were working at the Cheese Cake Factory in Pittsford, N.Y. The workers were considered "suspicious" because they didn't know how to speak English.

The demonstration was also an opportunity for activists to discuss next steps for organizing, including a "Church Watch" to protect the congregation from ICE, a newsletter to update activists when raids take place and a petition campaign to make Rochester a sanctuary city.

With the Border Patrol is slated to add 6,000 more to its forces, activists should expect recruitment events like this in their cities.

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