Immigration and Sanctuary Cities have been hot topics in the national news, particularly with an Administration determined to meet campaign promises rather than go about solving these human and economic issues in a constructive manner. But the problem is not new and it brings me back to my Northwest years, the raid on the Portland Del Monte Plant, and the Women of the Bracelet.
It would have been 2007 and I was an exec in the food processing industry, working for a company with plants in California and Vancouver, WA (across the bridge from Portland). Back then, the far right were chanting “build a wall” as they are now, and U.S. Immigration and Customs agents (I.C.E.) were being sent out to raid industries that used migrant labor.
Farming and food processing in the U.S. depends upon this seasonal work force, but rather than the government creating a reasonable guest worker process (like the bracero program during WWII) they choose to ignore the problem, letting the migrants take all the risk.
In June of 2007, I.C.E. raided the Del Monte food processing plant at the Port of Portland, herding workers onto buses and transporting them up I-5 to a Tacoma, WA, detention center. Almost immediately Portland churches learned that this raid separated mothers from children who were in school or day care or kept by other family members, and an inter-faith group known as New Sanctuary mounted a rapid and strong objection.
Through their efforts, New Sanctuary activists were able to press I.C.E. into releasing the mothers into their care so they could be reunited with their children while awaiting deportation hearings. These mothers called themselves Las Mujeres de la Brazalete – Women of the Bracelet – for the tracking device they were required to wear.
So when we read about Sanctuary Cities and organizations like New Sanctuary, it is important we remember that these people – these kind and brave people – are addressing the human issues that our government leadership continues to ignore because migrants are of little consequence to their re-election, or, apparently, to their conscience.
— Jonnie Martin