By Adrianna McGinley
Community members, labor organizations and immigrant rights activists held a rally Tuesday urging DC legislators to refuse the Secure Communities program and maintain DC’s status as a sanctuary city.
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) praised DC for being the first city in the nation to reject the deportation program last year but asked the mayor to keep his promise of making DC “one city” and continue resisting federal pushes to implement the program.
“The mayor ran on a platform against this deportation program, and we want him now that he’s mayor to actually do something about it,” said Sarahi Uribe, National Campaign Coordinator of NDLON. “The mayor is all about one city, but how can we have one city if families are being torn apart.”
Over an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants could be affected by this program, including Matias Ramos, co-founder of the activist organization for undocumented youth, United We Dream. Ramos, a UCLA graduate, attended the rally to speak out against the danger that he says Secure Communities poses in DC.
“One thing that Secure Communities would do is that it would systematically erode the trust between police enforcement and the communities they are supposed to serve and protect, and it would use community policing as a tool to put people through this profiteering scheme,” Ramos said. “I think it’s horrendous, and I think it’s an attack on our communities.”
Former DC Metro police officer and current president of Black Law Enforcement in America Ronald Hampton agreed with Ramos, saying it is essential for police to have a relationship with the communities they serve, and Secure Communities would destroy that.
“Secure Communities will prevent police officers and police departments from creating the must needed relationships that have to take place in order for community policing to work,” Hampton said.
Participants at the rally visited the offices of DC council members and Mayor Vincent Gray to push for an executive order that would protect DC families from deportation. Uribe said she hopes DC will continue to serve as a leader in the national push for immigration reform.
Johnny Barnes, director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this message for the demonstrators, “Just remember this, the power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”