In order to set a political tone against deportations, a large group of illegal immigrants and activists escalated their tactics this week by blockading the garage entrances of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, obstructing workers and effectively shutting the office down.
Liberal website Progressive Today reports that on Thursday, June 19, the group of protestors brought PVC pipes with slogans written on them into which activists locked arms. As 70 some protesters carried signs and chanted in front of the offices, several others then laid down on the driveway, preventing ICE vehicles from coming and going and essentially stopping the agents from going into the community to arrest illegal aliens and bringing them back to the office holding areas.
Activists told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that this was a real world protest and not just symbolism.
“This is a pragmatic action, not a symbolic one,” Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of the immigration advocacy group Voces de la Frontera, told the paper. “We’re literally shutting down ICE.”
One of the protesters’ relatives was arrested and deported, and she felt that their temporary shut down was a “victory.”
“We’re declaring victory,” said Leilani Lopez, the sister-in-law of a recently arrested alien. “We succeeded in bringing attention to the cause.”
ICE authorities defended their work, telling the Milwaukee paper that most of those arrested are criminals who are dangerous to the greater society.
“ICE fully respects the right of all people to voice their opinion without interference,” ICE spokeswoman Gail Montenegro told the Sentinel. “While we continue to work with Congress to enact common-sense immigration reform, ICE remains committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement that focuses on its priorities, including convicted criminals and other public-safety threats.”
Protesters disputed the claim that those arrested recently were dangerous criminals, saying their only crime was being here illegally.
The protest went on for two hours, but no one was arrested. Eventually the obstruction ended and protesters left peacefully.
The action was led locally by a group called “Youth Empowered in the Struggle” and was part of a larger, nationwide protest staged by the National Day Labor Organizing Network called “Not 1 More,” an effort aimed at stopping all deportations of every kind.
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