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Tampa protest demands 'Protection, not deportation!' for immigrant children

By staff

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Tampa, FL – On July 31, two dozen protesters gathered outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Ybor City, demanding President Obama extend protection to incoming refugee children from Central America. The protesters stood in front of the office doors, brandishing signs and chanting, “Liberation! Not deportation!” The ICE office directs the detentions of undocumented immigrants in the Tampa Bay area.

In the past year, over 40,000 children fled violence and poverty in Central America, crossing the border into the U.S. seeking refuge. Thousands are detained and even more are deported back to their home country. President Obama is requesting $3.7 billion from Congress to pay for deporting and detaining these children.

A group named Raíces en Tampa led the event, with many other local organizations supporting, such as the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Awake Pinellas, Hondureños Unidos en Tampa and Tampa Students for a Democratic Society.

Jared Hamil of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization explained, “The U.S. has sent troops to Honduras countless times to support and defend investments in U.S. fruit corporations. In 2009 the U.S. even supported the overthrow of democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. While the U.S. backs the interests of corporations that fuel poverty abroad, they also target the same peoples who come here to escape from that poverty. We're here to say no more detentions. No more deportations. We want protection. Protect them from being targeted. Protect them from being locked up. Protect them from being deported, and protect them from violence and poverty both here and abroad.”

Oscar Hernandez of Raíces en Tampa said “I find it hypocritical that a country that prides itself on defending human rights is willing to deport these children, condemning them to violence and even death.”

Alicia Argenal-Gazga, also with Raíces en Tampa, related, “I know what it's like to live in their fear. Having grown up in Honduras, I also lived in fear of kidnapping and gang violence. President Obama shouldn't be treating these children as criminals, they need to be given refugee status.”

Raíces en Tampa is planning to focus on ending 'ICE holds' by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff David Gee holds people for up to 48 hours, both documented and undocumented, while determining their immigration status. Nearby counties ended this controversial jailing practice. Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri recently said that he is allowing arrested immigrants who can post bail to leave jail. Pasco County and Hernando County near Tampa no longer jail immigrants simply to determine their status.

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