Originally published in the Autumn 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 60, printed October 28. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
They say you can’t fight City Hall, but how about ICE? A group of mostly women in the Richmond area are showing that you can.
ICE is Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security responsible for arresting immigrants who lack documents. Founded in 2003, it now has more than 20,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $5.7 billion.
In early September, a young man named Eric Hernandez was arrested for possession of marijuana and held in the Henrico County jail. His mother, Rebeca Jimenez, came and paid his bail, but he wasn’t released.
He was being held on a detainer for ICE.
It wasn’t the first time this had happened, according to Leonina Arismendi Zarkovic, a friend who told the story to the Defender.
“The same thing happened last year with her son,” Leonina said. “He was arrested for a joint, held in jail and had an ICE detainer.”
That time, Rebeca and a friend, both local immigrant rights activists, started calling people to help and within a short time about 50 people had shown up at the jail.
“And they let him go,” Leonina said.
This time, she was out of town when they got the call from Rebeca.
“We started making calls to organizers here to have a plan of action to occupy the jail like we did last year,” Leonina said. “We talked to a couple of lawyers, so Rebeca would have one. We called the Never Again action group, and Shannon Lewis showed up to jail in the middle of the night and didn’t leave until Eric was released.”
Others also answered the call for action, with new people showing up every hour.
And, once again, Eric was released.
“The magistrate told Shannon they didn’t want a whole bunch of people showing up at the jail, so they were just going to let him leave,” Leonina said.
“And after Eric was liberated, Rebeca called us and said she wanted to work with us.”
“‘I want to do what you do,’ she told us. ‘Lobbying, immigrant justice, whatever.’”
We asked her, ‘What do you want?’ and she said, ‘I want ICE collaboration to stop in the jail. I want to talk with the sheriff. I want people to know what is happening.’
“Now Rebecca has started her own group,” Leonina said, “called Rompiendo el Hielo en Henrico County, Va. (Breaking the ICE in Henrico County, Va.) It provides safe spaces to talk about these issues and come to a general consensus about what to do. And she wants to work with us on lobbying at the General Assembly.”
Yes, you can fight City Hall – and ICE.
And these women are showing us how to do it.
For information on Rompiendo el Hielo, see the group’s Facebook page.
Categories: No Hay Fronteras en la Lucha de Los Obreros