Protesters gather to rally against ICE, immigration legislation

  • Eduardo Santiago, who is of Mexican descent and a member of Pioneer Valley Worker Center, rallies outside of the Franklin County House of Corrections Friday morning during a protest to call for the end of detention centers, the abolishment of ICE and the advocacy of four provisions not included in the state’s current budget. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • Protesters rallied outside of the Franklin County House of Corrections Friday morning to call for the end of detention centers, the abolishment of ICE and the advocacy of four provisions not included in the state’s current budget. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • Rev. Margaret Sawyer rallies outside of the Franklin County House of Corrections Friday morning during a protest to call for the end of detention centers, the abolishment of ICE and the advocacy of four provisions not included in the state’s current budget. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • Protesters rally outside of the Franklin County House of Corrections Friday morning during a protest to call for the end of detention centers, the abolishment of ICE and the advocacy of four provisions not included in the state’s current budget. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

  • The Rev. Margaret Sawyer speaks outside of the Franklin County House of Corrections Friday morning during a protest to call for the end of detention centers, the abolishment of ICE and the advocacy of four provisions not included in the state’s current budget. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon

Recorder Staff
Published: 7/20/2018 10:38:34 PM

GREENFIELD — A call to action from two activist groups in the Pioneer Valley brought about a group of roughly 50 protesters to the Franklin County House of Corrections Friday morning.

The message advocated was twofold: Abolish the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, or at least the detention centers it oversees and to advocate for policy regarding the rights of immigrants in the Legislature that looks like it will be left out of the state budget Gov. Charlie Baker is expected to sign by the end of the month.

“We want to bring the community together to show we stand with immigrants,” said Eduardo Santiago, who is of Mexican descent and a member of Pioneer Valley Worker Center, a co-organizer of the protest. “We’re coming out here today to also send a message to our elected representatives and officials.”

The event, also organized by Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, was in solidarity with a rally at the ICE facility in Burlington.

The core issue was not with the Greenfield facility that used to house 80 detainees, but now has been scaled back to 45, all of whom Franklin County Sheriff Chris Donelan has repeatedly stated already have been convicted of a crime — other than being in the country illegally — and are at the very least underway in a trial for deportation, if not already slated to be deported. The protest was more aimed at the national conversation around the concept of ICE and the idea that any jail could profit off of the acts of that federal agency.

“We recognize of the centers in the Massachusetts, Greenfield is smaller and is closer to many people’s families, making them easier to visit and see their lawyers,” said the Rev. Margaret Sawyer of the United Church of Christ and an activist with the Pioneer Valley Worker Center. “We’re not here to say close the Greenfield detention center; we’re here to say shut down ICE and all detention centers.”

Sawyer, based out of Amherst, said even if the people at the Greenfield facility are not the ones who have been recently separated from their families at the border, as the sheriff has publicly stated, “Those families are facing trauma similar to those on the borders.”

Donelan said he shared frustrations over what has been happening in recent weeks at the border over immigration.

“What they were protesting I absolutely agree with and it didn’t bother me to see them out there,” Donelan said. “The Trump administration is a disaster and how they’re handling the current immigration issue with how they’re separating families (at the border) is even more disastrous.”

Santiago and fellow organizer Andrea Schmid, a former Greenfield resident now living in Holyoke, were more critical of the jail that has a contract with ICE and generates annually about $3 million of revenue for the state’s general fund.

“This is something we don’t want to be a part of, a deportation machine,” Santiago said.

“The sheriff is trying to separate himself from what’s happening at the border, but to me that sounds like to me he is still being complicit in supporting an institution that is already systematically separating families in our own communities,” Schmid said. She also called on residents to hold their elected officials, like the sheriff, accountable.

Donelan pointed to the fact that the agreement with ICE, a sister agency, is the same as it was under the Obama administration. He stated nobody is profiting off of it other than the Massachusetts taxpayers, since the money goes into the state’s general fund.

Lead organizer Rose Bookbinder took particular issue with the actions on Beacon Hill this week, which did not support four provisions in the state budget, saying she was both “outraged” and “ashamed” with her local representatives for their lack of support.

The language in the provisions called for no registries of any kind, no questioning of immigration status, no collaboration between local and federal law enforcement and the rights to due process, the organizers explained.

“We are pushing one last final fight to try to get those provisions into the budget,” Bookbinder said. “We’ll continue organizing until we win.”

This was a “last chance” for the state Senate to be on the “right side,” Schmid said. “They’re playing it safe. They’re not actually upholding their platform: All immigrants are welcome here. I encourage folks to reach out to their representatives and see if they’re putting their money where their mouth is.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at: jsolomon@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.




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