Oaklanders condemn Trump immigration policies, demand respect and humane treatment
Marilyn Bechtel/PW

OAKLAND, Calif.—The biggest result so far from the immigration raids touted by President Trump may well be the flood of actions throughout the country, including the San Francisco Bay Area, demanding that immigrants’ rights be fully respected and that they be treated humanely.

Among dozens of Bay Area actions was one that filled the plaza at Oakland City Hall July 12. There, the Alameda County chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) took the lead in bringing together elected officials, pastors, union and youth leaders who put the present crisis at the border in a broad political and historical context. Many related their own and their families’ experiences as immigrants, and many drew parallels between today’s situation at the U.S.-Mexico border and the World War II concentration camps where Japanese Americans were held.

Lifelong civil rights activist Rev. Phillip Lawson galvanized the crowd as he recounted his own history as the son of an immigrant from Canada, and the grandson of an African slave who had fled there.

“On Sunday, the holiest day of the week,” he said, “our government will invade our neighborhoods and gather up our children, our sisters and brothers. The fact they chose Sunday is true evidence that President Trump wants to mock the religious traditions of all nations.”

Lawson reminded the crowd that while few people are directly responsible for the disaster at the border, all of us are responsible to resolve it. “President Trump, every border guard, every private company making money from the misery of our sisters and brothers will feel the shaking of our land until we are made whole again. Your family is my family.”

Hiroshi Shimizu, who said he was born in “an American concentration camp in Utah,” told how his family was torn apart during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Even after they had been brought together again in a camp, his father was put into a maximum-security stockade for protesting against the internments, and the family ended up being held until six months after the war ended.

But, he said, “All the unconstitutional, inhumane treatment the government gave us in the 1940s doesn’t come close to the treatment the Trump administration is administering to families and children today.”

Marilyn Bechtel/PW

Youth leader David Gaines of the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center reflected a similar perspective as he declared, “Let us create a burning passion across our borders, across our ages, cultures, and races – young and old marching side by side, creating a glow that will spread through the darkness. We must organize tens of thousands for the long haul of creating a stronger democracy.”

Yeon Park, SEIU Local 1021’s East Bay Vice President and an APALA leader, gave a heart-wrenching account of the lifelong trauma her father suffered after he was separated from his father and family during the Korean war. “When I see children here taken away from their families at the border, it breaks my heart, it will stay with them forever,” she said. “I’m calling today for the closing of these detention centers, so children can be reunited with their parents. Now! Today!”

Remarks by Kathryn Lybarger, president of the California Labor Federation and head of AFSCME Local 3299—the University of California’s largest employee union—were a highlight of the program.

Lybarger told the crowd that she and over 2 million California workers represented by the Labor Federation “condemn the brutality of this administration and stand with every child, woman, and man working for a better life in this world — Solidarity is not a mood or a word, it is an action—and in our actions, we will win!”

U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and City Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Nikki Fortunato Bas and Noel Gallo participated in person or sent statements.

Among the Oakland action’s sponsors were all Alameda County supervisors and the District Attorney’s office, all Oakland City Councilmembers and Community College district officers, as well as California Assemblymember Rob Bonta. The Alameda Labor Council and several unions were joined by organizations including the Anti Police-Terror Project, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and East Bay Sanctuary Covenant.


CONTRIBUTOR

Marilyn Bechtel
Marilyn Bechtel

Marilyn Bechtel writes for the People’s World from the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined the PW staff in 1986, and currently participates as a volunteer.

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