Wayne Lopez-Jimenez still remembers how it felt to lose his mother.
When he was 6, federal immigration authorities detained and deported Wayne’s mother, and he was unable to see her for a year, an experience that he says made him depressed.
Eventually, Wayne’s mother was allowed to return to the U.S.
Seeing her for the first time in a year at the airport was like seeing an angel, he says.
Now 12, Wayne—who was born in the U.S.—recently joined a couple dozen local activists outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s field office in Fairfax on June 27 to protest the treatment of people coming from Central and South America and ICE raids that regularly disrupt families like Wayne’s.
Given permission to attend the rally by his mother, Wayne was accompanied by a volunteering chaperone from Annandale’s Little River United Church of Christ and held a sign that declared “Families belong together.”
“When my mom tried to come here, they took my mom and took her to immigration, and I didn’t have my mom and that hurt my life,” Wayne said. “It was like they took a piece of my heart. So, this is why I'm supporting [the rally], because I can kind of relate to what’s happening.”
Organized by local immigrant and civil rights advocacy organizations, including La ColectiVA, Sanctuary DMV, and the Justice for Muslims Collective, the “ICE Out” community defense rally was prompted by reports that the agency had plans to conduct raids around the country to arrest individuals subject to deportation orders en masse on June 23.
According to The Washington Post, the raids were scheduled to take place before dawn in as many as 10 major cities, including Houston, Miami, and Los Angeles, and up to 2,000 families could be targeted.
However, hours before the operation was expected to begin, President Donald Trump tweeted that it would be delayed for two weeks with the expectation that Congress would use that time to pass immigration reform legislation.
Trump has previously rejected possible deals based on their inclusion of protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status recipients or insufficient funding for the wall he has promised to construct along the U.S.’s southern border.
The ICE Out rally also came in the wake of a June 21 report by the Associated Press that shared observations from lawyers who say that children detained in Customs and Border Patrol facilities near the southern border have been kept in inhumane conditions with inadequate food, water, and sanitation.
Attorneys filed a case in federal court on June 26 asking a judge to issue an emergency order requiring independent public health inspections of the detention facilities.
One facility in Clint, Texas, has housed as many as 700 people, including 117 children, in recent weeks despite having a maximum capacity of 106 people, according to The Washington Post.
Six children have died in U.S. immigration custody in the past eight months, according to Families Belong Together, an immigrant advocacy coalition led by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, MoveOn, the ACLU, Fwd.us, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
“We need these flash points for people who support this work, who support, you know, not caging children, not separating families, to be visible somehow,” National Korean American Service and Education Consortium D.C. area director Sookyung Oh said. “…Any death is unacceptable, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Led by La ColectiVA organizer Danny Cendejas, protestors marched from the entrance of the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station to ICE’s Fairfax office in heat that triggered an air quality alert for the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
That heat later gave way to rain as the rally attendees chanted and sang, while Department of Homeland Security police watched from the ICE office’s front entrance.
A DHS officer told the Fairfax County Times that the department would not comment on the rally.
In addition to calling on Congress to eliminate ICE and CBP, the “ICE Out” rally organizers urged Fairfax County officials to end all collaboration with immigration authorities.
As part of the Fairfax for All coalition, La ColectiVA is one of several grassroots organizations advocating for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance prohibiting all county agencies and employees from assisting and sharing information with ICE in relation to civil immigration enforcement unless explicitly required by law.
Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid terminated an intergovernmental service agreement with ICE on May 23, 2018, meaning that the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center would no longer hold inmates targeted by an ICE administrative detainer past their release date unless a criminal detainer is also issued by a court.
According to data from Syracuse University’s TRAC Immigration Project, the Fairfax County ADC received 646 detainers from ICE in Fiscal Year 2018 and 173 detainers so far in FY 2019. Information and statistics about whether ICE assumed custody after detainers were issued is available by request from the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office.
Fairfax County has the most residents with cases pending in immigration court of any county in Virginia with 12,079 cases as of this past February, according to TRAC Immigration.
“It’s important for our communities to respond and fight back and ensure that there is clear message of solidarity with immigrants,” Cendejas said. “We also want to make sure that we call out the complicity that is a large part of what’s enabling Trump to commit these threats and to do raids.”