Vigil held to protest murder of undocumented worker

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A poster-sized photograph with flowers and votive candles formed a sidewalk altar in front of the Sacramento County Main Jail Feb. 26, as more than 40 activists held a press conference and protest-memorial for 22-year-old Evaristo Ramirez Ventura, an undocumented worker murdered Feb. 17 in a jail holding cell.

Ramirez Ventura had been arrested for driving under the influence, and was held for pickup by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because he had no immigration documents, Efren Guttierez of the Chicano Consortium said after meeting with the Sheriff’s Accountability Department.

Later that day, Richard Hardin, arrested for assaulting a Latina woman, was placed in the same cell, and 24 hours later, Ramirez Ventura was found dead in the cell, having been beaten and strangled with a t-shirt. allegedly by Hardin.

“This was a hate crime. Had he not been an undocumented worker he would be alive today,” Al Rojas of the Sacramento Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement AFL-CIO told the few media representatives attending the press conference.

Holly Cooper, associate dean of immigration law, University of California at Davis, reminded the media that Ramirez Ventura was a civil detainee and should not have been placed in a cell with an accused criminal. Eric Vega of the Sacramento Justice Reform Coalition called the murder “one part of the harassment and criminalization of the immigrant community across the country.”

The group demanded meetings with Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and ICE. “Is the Sheriff’s Department part of the ICE or here to protect us?” Guttierez asked.

“We won’t be quiet,” Rojas added. “They’re not going to pay attention to us until we show up on the street, and say to Obama, ‘Where’s that change we voted for?’”

The press conference was attended by Anna Ramirez, Ramirez Ventura’s mother, his brother, sisters and other family members, as well as other immigrant rights and social justice organizations.