By Nicole Dial
City News Reporter

“No more raids! Down with ICE!” chanted a group of about 20 who gathered around a small stage in the Beach Flats community park last Friday.

In light of local and statewide raids that have detained more than 900 people in the past few weeks, the Movement for Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA) joined with community members to hold a press conference and rally to raise voices against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s recent activities in the community.

MIRA, a coalition of groups that fights for immigrant rights, is concerned about ICE and how it affects their community.

Elizabeth Murphy, a community studies major and MIRA intern, said she was outraged with what ICE has done.

“In Berkeley and Oakland, there were rumors about ICE going to schools,” Murphy said. “There were vans seen around the school and parents were afraid to pick up their children. It’s inhumane.”

The Brown Berets, a grassroots organization which serves the community in Watsonville, also attended.

Many at the rally, especially Uriel Juarez, a member of the Brown Berets, believed that they had to stand up against ICE and protect their communities.

“The raids are ridiculous, they rip apart communities. It’s a waste of resources,” he said. “We’re showing ICE we won’t be scared to go outside.”

David Partida and Nidya Ramirez, members of MIRA and the bilingual announcers of the event, criticized ICE for its actions against undocumented immigrants.

“We shouldn’t allow the destruction of our families and communities,” Partida said, with Ramirez translating into Spanish. “The U.S. says it cares about families. It should be ashamed when they remove people from their homes.”

Ramirez believed that the raids are causing social problems instead of helping communities.

“We need to respond,” she said. “Communities are targeted and terrorized. We need to come together in solidarity.”

Cheers and chants followed each presentation from members of the community, who have been struggling to have their voices heard.

One of the speakers, Daniel Luna, an attorney and a UCSC alumnus, said ICE is unfairly targeting immigrants, calling them criminals and conducting sweeps without warrants.

“The raids are unwarranted and negatively affect the community,” Luna said. “Eighty percent of those arrested had no criminal record. Our constitutional rights are being undermined.”

Sandino Gomez, a DJ for Free Radio Santa Cruz and member of the Brown Berets, spoke on social problems in local communities caused by the raids, and problems abroad caused by government policy.

“The cause is failed economic policies of this government being forced on other countries by the World Bank and policies like NAFTA,” Gomez said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s frustrating that immigrants are constantly portrayed as the victimizers. They are just trying to survive.”

Members of MIRA wore green as a sign of support for immigrants. In solidarity, Lilah Hinde of Santa Cruz wore a green bandanna around her neck.

“I am here to show that there are people who will not stand by when vulnerable communities are being threatened,” Hinde said. “It comes down to showing that there will be resistance.”