Protesters blocked access to the headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, calling for the agency to be shut down for its treatment of undocumented migrants. The Jewish and immigrant demonstrators invoked the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, railing against the conditions of migrants detained at the border while calling for legislators to establish “permanent protection, dignity and respect for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.”
The protests were organized by Never Again Action and Cosecha Movement, two groups that have staged demonstrations across the country since staging an event at the privately operated Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey on June 30. The protest in Washington, D.C. is the fourteenth event calling for the dissoultion of ICE, according to the website of Never Again Action. More events are planned in subsequent weeks.
Protesters occupied the front lobby of the building and barricaded entrances and exits of the ICE headquarters building, Sophie Ellman-Golan, a spokesperson for Never Again Action, told Newsweek. She said that 12 people had been arrested inside the building and estimated that 1,000 people had attended the demonstration. The Metropolitan Police Department told Newsweek that the protesters had been arrested by the Federal Protective Service, which is part of the the Department of Homeland Security. DHS did not immediately respond when contacted by Newsweek. ICE did not immediately respond when asked how many protesters had been arrested.
The president’s immigration policy, which court documents indicate has caused the separation of at least 2,654 children from their families, continues to generate public outcry. While many critics have focused attention on Republicans, Never Again Action and Cosecha Movement have also criticized Democrats, who they say have not acted forcefully enough to challenge the administration’s immigrant policy.
“While Republicans are stoking the flames of white nationalism, Democrats are letting them do it,” Brandon Mond, an organizer, told Newsweek at the action in Elizabeth last month. “We want to hold Democrats accountable — people who say in their words that they’re for immigrants but time and time again throw the 11 million undocumented people that already live in this country under the bus.”
Protesters at the D.C. event created a large banner, which said “Pelosi, never again is now.”
Pelosi, the House Speaker, has faced backlash since last month for capitulating on a bill to send $4.6 billion in aid to the southern border. The measure sparked dissent within the Democratic party.
“In this moment of public reckoning, it’s time to put forward a new vision on immigration that recognizes the dignity of all immigrants,” Cata Santiago, a spokesperson for Cosecha Movement, said in a press release. “We won’t sit back and allow the decades long bipartisan attack on immigrants to continue. We are charting a new path forward and demanding those politicians who claim to be with us to join in the fight for dignity for all immigrants.”
Cosecha Movement last week announced a platform calling for the Democratic Party to end all detention and deportation, reunify families that have been separated and offer “immediate legalization” for all undocumented immigrants in country.