Hundreds of people marched down Monterey Road Friday evening to protest against U.S. immigration policies.
The June 26 protest was organized and led by a group of Aztec dancers. Supportive crowds gathered at Galvan Park on Crest Avenue for an “open mic” assembly. Demonstrators, dancers, artists and singers shared statements in support of racial equality and reform of immigration policies before marching to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office on Vineyard Court.
The procession was led by the Aztec dancers and a group of percussionists who played from the back of a pickup truck. Protesters—carrying signs and chanting slogans—crowded the southbound traffic lanes on Monterey Road and other streets as Morgan Hill Police controlled traffic.
The purpose of the protest was to call attention to U.S. immigration policies that have resulted in the separation of children from their parents, particularly at the southern border with Mexico. Lead organizers of the march were Aztec dancers Reyes Villafana, of Salinas, and Josue Gonzalez, of San Jose.
“We have seen a bunch of injustice within our Latino community, especially with families being separated and especially kids,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not fair that our people are being treated like animals.”
Many handmade signs and speakers at the protest spoke of immigrant children being placed “in cages,” a reference to U.S. immigration practices that result in the detention of kids away from their parents when caught crossing the border.
“We are trying to uplift our voices and give a voice to those kids,” Villafana said.
The organizers added that the anti-ICE movement has gained momentum recently from regional and nationwide protests against police violence and racial inequality within the justice system. They said they were protesting June 26 “in solidarity” with Black Lives Matter, an activist organization that has led recent protests against police violence.
“Kids are dying, and being sexually abused within these centers,” Gonzalez said, referring to detention centers at the U.S. border. “With the pandemic, it’s unsanitary. It’s time that we speak about it.”
The U.S. ICE office on Vineyard Court is an Enforcement and Removal Operations sub-office for the agency, which falls under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The office has been the target of occasional peaceful protests organized by clergy, activists and members of the public since it opened in 2016.