About 60 people protesting recent raids of the Western North Carolina’s Hispanic community encircled a public picnic shelter where federal immigration authorities were eating lunch Friday afternoon.
To the beat of a small brass band, protesters shouted “El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido!” — The people, united, will never be defeated! — while about 30 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and other law enforcement personnel ate.
As the demonstration reached its crescendo, federal agents had to shout across picnic tables to hear each other over the chanting and music, which was exactly the goal of protest organizer Bruno Hinjosa.
Hinojosa heads the immigrant rights advocacy group Compañeros Inmigrantes de las Montañas en Accion, meaning Companions of Mountain Migrants in Action. He organized Friday’s protest to apply pressure to immigration agents who he said have arrested about 25 people in Buncombe and Henderson counties since Saturday.
“It’s time to push as hard as we can on local enforcement agencies,” Hinojosa told protesters before they surrounded the picnic. “Somebody needs to be held accountable. WNC has been attacked, and I don’t think this is something to celebrate.”
And this is necessary. Just in case you need a reminder:
Jorge Ramirez, a farm worker from Hendersonville, said that he protested the picnic because he believes immigrants are not being afforded fair treatment by the country that they’re helping make better.
Ramirez is originally from Mexico and said his younger brother, Alejandro, died fighting for the United States in the Middle East.
“When I see these raids, I wonder if it was worth it for him to go die for this country,” he said. “I think he would say no.”
Leslie Heywood, a social worker with Henderson County Social Services, said she attended the demonstration because she works with the Hispanic community and sees how it has been impacted by the immigration raids.
Heywood, who emigrated from Mexico, said none of the people with whom she works were arrested by ICE in the region’s most recent raids, but she said that her clients are scared nonetheless.
“These raids are putting tremendous fear in kids and families, and it seems like that’s the goal,” she said. “This resembles very much how the Nazis targeted the Jews. People have gone into hiding.”
ICE agents are fascists. The comparison to Nazis is entirely legitimate. They are committing ethnic cleansing in our nation. Confronting these racists directly is a great idea. Make them feel unwelcome. Make them annoyed. Make them feel sad. And eventually, make them feel ashamed, not welcome in our homes and communities. They are the worst of all Americans.