ICE Program Under Fire
On a gray September afternoon, several hundred people gathered on the National Mall in Washington to protest the 287(g) program. The rally, put together by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), was the culminating event of a conference for day labor organizers across the country. There was a small stage for bands to perform. One musician, wearing a guayabera and playing an electric guitar, had written a song for the occasion: "Me llama terrorista, lo que pasa es que era racista" ("You call me a terrorist, but what's happening is you're a racist"). He repeated the refrain a few times, and the crowd began singing along; fists were waving in the air.
Salvador Reza, the Phoenix activist who founded the Macehualli Day Labor Center in Phoenix, attended the protest in DC. Earlier that week, Reza held a session for organizers based in 287(g)-authorized localities. "What's happening in Arizona is starting to happen in those places too," Reza had concluded. "Not to same extent. We have more than 160 trained officers. They have maybe only two trained officers. But even with those two trained officers, the other police--they go and arrest somebody and take them in, because they know that once they get there, they will be interviewed by a 287(g)-trained officer and be deported."
The National Mall was parceled into rallies. The National Council of Negro Women was hosting a cultural event; and another mass of people, wearing "Glenn Beck for President" T-shirts and bearing posters of Obama with villainous-looking makeup on, were protesting healthcare reform, abortion rights and overall dissatisfaction with the new administration. NDLON had decided to mark off its rally with yellow caution tape--angry counter-demonstrators had interrupted their last one.
A woman who had wandered down from the anti-Obama protest, when faced with caution tape, ranted, "Other people have come over and been aggressive and belligerent, so you immediately thought we were the same way." A small crowd gathered around her. "What's that called? It's called stereotyping."
Later, Reza described the encounter to a friend. Chuckling, he said, "She just doesn't believe in border enforcement!"