Hundreds Protest Border Patrol Sweeps
Jannise Johnson, DailyBulletin.com (CA), Jun. 13
ONTARIO — Hundreds of activists marched from downtown Ontario to Pomona Sunday in protest of recent U.S. Border Patrol sweeps targeting undocumented residents.
Abel P. Medina, a member of Hermanidad Mexicano Nacional Ontario who helped organize the march, said the sweeps, which rounded up illegal immigrants outside of schools and churches, are racially motivated and excessive.
“We haven’t received any numbers (that state) they have arrested any Canadians or any Europeans. Why are they targeting Latinos?” he said at the march, which began at Euclid Avenue and C Street in Ontario.
The crowd, which police estimate grew to 1,000 by the time it reached Pomona, waved flags, carried signs and shook maracas while marching to protest the sweeps that led to 160 arrests of undocumented residents near public institutions. Protestors have decried the sweeps, saying they separated children from their parents and caused many to fear leaving their homes.
Border Patrol officials say the sweeps are not new and part of an on-going effort. Last weekend the sweeps netted 160 arrests in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
“Traditionally, this is a job we’ve done before,” said Sean Isham, spokesman for the U.S. Border Patrol, San Diego Sector. “With resources, manpower and Operation Gatekeeper, we changed our mode to a forward deployment. We had more visibility on the line to deter the illegal aliens from crossing. There’s more stability at the border, which has freed up our resources to act on intelligence that’s been gathered.”
Medina disputes Border Patrol officials who say they are not unfairly targeting Latinos.
As did protesters in Sunday’s crowd. Albert Maldonado, a U.S. citizen and Ontario resident, likened the recent sweeps to the scapegoating of Jews in Nazi-controlled Germany in the late 1930s and '40s.
“There’s too much familiarity to it,” he said. “They did this back in the '30s and '40s. I thought they dropped that years ago.”
Prior to the march, Rev. Luis Angel Nieto addressed the crowd in Spanish about hopes for a fairer U.S. immigration policy.
“We urge our president to continue negotiations concerning immigration issues,” he said. “To achieve a more generous, just and humane system of immigration for our countries.”
All speeches were made entirely in Spanish as the crowds gathered for the protest.
As the protesters lined up to begin the march, scheduled to end in Pomona at Garey Avenue and Mission Boulevard, they shouted slogans and made noise to voice their support for illegal immigrants rounded up during the recent sweeps.
Participants held up red, green and white signs, American and Mexican flags and some shook maracas as the crowd marched south on Euclid.
Wendy Canales, a U.S. citizen born in Honduras, is a San Fernando Valley resident. She and her friend — whose family is from Mexico — came out to show support for all illegal immigrants, regardless of origin. Canales and her friend, who did not give her name, heard about the protest on KPFK radio.
“We’re out here to fight for our people,” Canales said. “Not just Latinos, but anybody who’s here illegally. Whether they’re from Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean.”
Canales believes the sweeps may be U.S. retaliation in response to some Latin countries pulling troops out of Iraq.
While Canales was out to show support for all immigrants regardless of nationality, Armando Garcia, a Los Angeles resident, wondered why the crowd consisted of nearly all Latinos.
“You don’t see Chinese, you don’t see white, you don’t see black. Why?” he asked, gesturing to the hundreds gathered on the grassy median. “This is my country, this is my raza (race),” he said referring to the United States.