Children gather in Chicano Park in support before the march.
Children gather in Chicano Park in support before the march. Photo by Chris Stone

Groups from as far away as New York, Georgia and Texas joined local immigrant-rights activists Monday at Chicano Park for a two-hour rally, followed by a march downtown where some blocked the entrance to the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building for an hour.

The building at 880 Front St. houses local ICE offices. A similar protest in Los Angeles resulted in a handful of arrests, but no arrests were reported in San Diego.

Protestors block the entrance to the Edward J. Schwartz Federal Building. Employees used the emergency exit for entrance. Photo by Chris Stone

(However, the unfurling of a banner atop the nearby Westin Hotel led to 10 arrests, organizers said. The sign said* “Free Our Families Now!”)

At Chicano Park, demonstrators were led in a Peace Poets song and chant: “This is for the people who are locked inside — together we will abolish ICE.”

Audrey Sasson, executive director of New York-based Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, said 20 members of her group came out to support the local protest organized by Mijente.

“This is one of the most critical and defining issues in the struggle that is happening now,” Sasson told Times of San Diego. “People have to step up and meet head-on the roots of the problem.”

She said the nation lived without ICE before, “and we can do it again. I can imagine a much freer future for all. …We want to channel love and rage toward a vision of collective thriving.”

People are answering the call in the tens of thousands, she said. “They are being agitated in a way that is productive.”

In a tweet, Mijente said abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency meant a moratorium on deportations, an end to “all forms of immigration detention” and changing the Border Patrol into a “humanitarian force that rescues migrants, rather than destroying their water supplies to hasten their deaths.”

About 40 people from Phoenix also joined the protest, said Jacque Salomon of the ACLU of Arizona.

“The idea that I get to kiss my children every night as a privilege is so beyond me,” Salomon said. “It is a human right to raise your children, to nurture your children…. America has been hijacked.”

The native Puerto Rican added: “These invisible manmade borders are dehumanizing people, and we cannot stand for it — because we are all people. We are all the same. We all have to support each other, take care of each other. That’s why I’m here — to fight against this.”

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In a statement, the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America union said it was taking part in “direct actions” in California, Texas and Arizona “to demand the immediate reunification of families and a fair immigration system that protects all working people.”

“Many union members, their parents, or their grandparents made the difficult decision to come to the U.S. to escape oppression, violence and poverty,” the group said. “They came with a commitment to work hard and a hope to provide a better future for their children. It is with the same hope that the overwhelming majority of immigrant families come to our borders, only to be met with the Trump Administration’s hardline, racialized immigration policies.”

Demonstrators locked arms and blocked the entrance to the Edward J. Schwartz building on Broadway. They were warned by police at least twice that they were causing a fire hazard and could be arrested if they continued to block the federal building entrance.

Mijente member Maru Mora told City News Service that protesters blocked the federal building because “these are places where we have seen the criminalization of our community.”

The action coincides with the expected San Diego introduction of Operation Streamline, a fast-track prosecution program that moves migrants through the criminal justice system in group hearings. Originally introduced by President George W. Bush in 2005, the program has lately been used only in select Arizona and Texas cities.

Grassroots groups such a Junto Global, Puente and GLAHR attended the rally.

Representatives from the Women’s March also took part, along with members of 35 organizations including Movement for Black Lives, Dream Defenders, Faith Matters Network, Working Families Party and Jewish Voices for Peace.

Mijente calls itself a national Latinx organization leading on mobilizing against immigration enforcement and criminalization.

“As a digital and grassroots hub for Latinx and Chicanx movement building and organizing, Mijente seeks to increase the profile of policy issues that matter to our communities and increase the participation of Latinx and Chicanx people in the broader movements for racial, economic, climate and gender justice,” says its website.

A spokeswoman said Mijente was founded by Marisa Franco, its current director, in 2015, “but based off work done in migrant rights movement since 2012/2013 with the Not1More Campaign.

About 600,000 people have signed up for Mijente alerts, she said, with 400 active members organizing in their localities.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported what the banner said.

— City News Service contributed to this report.