News, music, movies & restaurants from the editors of the Silicon Valley's #1 weekly newspaper.
Serving San Jose, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Fremont & nearby cities.

September 20-27, 2006

home | metro silicon valley index | news | silicon valley | news article

Watsonville Brown Berets

No Borders: Following Friday's demonstration, concerned community members, including Watsonville Brown Berets, marched down Pacific Avenue and through Beach Flats, chanting 'No Borders, No Nations, Fuck Deportation!'

Operation Postage Paid

Following the recent INS sweep, Santa Cruz County activists pledge to provide safe havens from future deportation raids

By Laura Mattingly

'If local legislators are not willing to come out and protect the community members," says Santa Cruz Anti-Imperialist League member Amelia McDonald, "then the documented community needs to organize to protect its community members."

More than 100 concerned community members gathered in front of the Government Center Building on the corner of Ocean and Water streets last Friday to protest the 107 abductions of undocumented immigrants from their homes in Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Hollister two weeks ago, including 44 rapid deportations. Of those taken, a majority had origins in Mexico, while others were from El Salvador, Guatemala and India.

The demands of the Anti-Imperialist League, a newly formed activist group that organized the demonstration, include the immediate release of all remaining immigrants who have been detained in Santa Cruz County, the payment of reparations to those who have already been deported and a moratorium on all future deportations in Santa Cruz and nationwide.

Watsonville resident Susana Lopez's 25- year-old cousin was a victim of the sweep, taken away from his wife and 6-year-old daughter and deported to Mexico.

According to Lopez, at 5am, five Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers knocked on the door of a residential building in Watsonville on Pinot Street near Freedom Street, presenting themselves as police officers, and requesting admittance into the building. The woman the officials initially asked for by name was not present, but they proceeded to ask for proof of citizenship from everyone else in the building. The Immigration officials took away five people. According to Lopez, her cousin had no criminal record. He had been in the United States for four years and had been employed at a local restaurant.

The Beach Flats Community Center, with the help of volunteer residents, has been posting fliers to educate immigrants of their rights, suggesting undocumented workers remain calm and not flee if Immigration officials visit their workplaces, not open the doors of their residences to Immigration officials or admit them without a court order, and not sign any documents without first speaking with a lawyer.

Also supporting the effort are the Brown Berets (a Chicano youth organization based in Watsonville), who are helping to organize a phone tree so that if and when Immigration and Customs Enforcement returns, as many people as possible will be alerted and undocumented immigrants can get to predetermined "safe-spots." These safe spots will be held at locations of participating businesses, community buildings, residences or on private land. Signage will be posted in participating locations to alert people as to where the safe spots will be. Barrios Unidos, a Santa Cruz community center for nonviolence, has volunteered its facilities to post signage. Organizers intend for each safe spot to then be surrounded by documented citizens protesting the arrival of Immigration officials.

Reyna Ruiz, community liaison and resource coordinator for the Beach Flats Community Center, says, "The reality for undocumented immigrants in this country is that the threat of deportation is always real, whether there are raids or not. The reality is that each person must be educated and prepared."

Many people spoke at the demonstration in concern, sadness and outrage at the recent sweeps. City Councilmember Tony Madrigal announced at the demonstration that the community should respond to the recent sweep officially known as Operation Return to Sender by launching project "Operation Postage Paid," putting a name to the various types of efforts being made throughout Santa Cruz to protect immigrant rights.

"Undocumented immigrants are community members, workers and local business owners who have paid their taxes and done more for this community than a lot of other people I know," says Madrigal. "And I think these folks have more than paid their postage and they should be brought back and reunited here in our community, because Santa Cruz is a welcoming town and a diverse town."

Send a letter to the editor about this story.