California

People adorned in traditional regalia danced to the sound of a pulsing drum on the steps of City Hall during the “Free our kids in cages” protest on June 14.

As the Black Lives Matter protests continue into their third week after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, other social justice activists are building on that momentum, unifying and speaking out against other entities of power.

The protestors voiced that their causes were united as they chanted, “Black lives matter. Brown lives matter,” while marching through the streets of Los Angeles on June 14. People with megaphones, many of whom also spoke during recent Black Lives Matter protests, fought against the violent systemic racism within Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Founded in 2003 by then-President George W. Bush, ICE has become a source of intense scrutiny by the public and civil rights organizations for their treatment of immigrants. More recently, ICE separated more than 2,800 immigrant families in the spring of 2018 due to the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” border policy.

“I have the fear that one of my friends may be deported one day,” said 16-year-old Kailani Aproda at City Hall. “They wanted to come out to this protest, but they were too scared to even come, so I’m coming out here for them.”

Kailani was accompanied by her parents, Melissa and David Aproda, who drove from Long Beach to attend the protest. As a mother, Melissa said it’s heartbreaking to hear about families being separated at the border.

Countless photos of overcrowded camps and videos of crying immigrant children separated from their parents have flooded social media, bringing light to the issues facing people at our borders. 

Melissa looked at Kailani with watery eyes and said, “I could never imagine my life separated from her in a cage. Ever.” 

ICE’s strict enforcement has led to nearly 20,000 grievances from detainees for allegations of mistreatment, including sexual assault, physical force and inadequate medical care, according to a 2019 investigation by the USA Today Network. 

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped to unify other social justice groups to protest the powerful systems that wreak havoc on their families and communities. Whether it’s mass incarceration in U.S. prisons or at the border, brown and black communities have been continually marginalized, and the once separate social justice movements have come together.

“We have our black brothers and sisters, our brown brothers and sisters joining together,” 22-year-old protester Jackeline Juarez said. “This is our time right now.”

Juarez attended other recent protests after Floyd’s murder, including a demonstration closer to her home, Palmdale. On June 10, 24-year-old Robert Fuller was found dead there, hanging from a tree, and officials quickly ruled his death as a suicide.

Activists disagreed with the official cause of death, and many call Fuller’s death a modern-day lynching, which was classified as a federal hate crime by the House earlier this year. His death was not an isolated incident, as four other black men have been found hanging from trees across the country in the last month. In each of the five cases, officials ruled the deaths as suicides. 

After the ICE protest Downtown, Juarez said she planned to attend the protest for black trans lives in Hollywood that same day. She said she makes different posters for each rally’s cause, saying these protests are extremely important to her.

“A lot of my family is immigrants,” Juarez said. “I am a first-generation Mexican American, so I have to do this. I have to be here. I have to let my voice be heard for my family that can’t. They can’t vote, they can’t do anything, so I’m going to be that voice for them.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ history of losing track of immigrant children’s whereabouts was a major point of criticism during the protest, as hundreds chanted, “Where are the children?!” while marching through the streets.

Luis Corchado, a 30-year-old paralegal who has worked in criminal defense for six years, condemned ICE’s dominating presence at the border. The lack of sanitary conditions, nutritious food and proper sleeping accommodations in ICE detention centers is a “huge, civil, inhumane punishment,” he said, noting that only attorneys who represent immigrants understand the gravity of the situation.

“Most of these immigrants are not being checked in properly,” he said. “A lot of them have gone missing throughout the years.”

Nearly 1,500 immigrant children were unaccounted for by ICE officials in 2018, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. ICE’s loss of children was a major point of criticism during the protest, as hundreds chanted, “Where are the children?!” while marching through the streets. 

While Corchado said it’s beautiful to see so many people marching together for justice, he said it’s imperative that people hold the LAPD accountable for their use of excessive force against protestors.

Corchado encouraged those who were hurt by LAPD in recent protests to seek justice and file a class-action lawsuit. 

“Save your evidence, your recordings, your pictures, your witnesses, this is just the tip,” he said. “This is just the beginning,” Juarez said. Secondly, he urged minority youth to run for elected office. 

“If we allow them to make the decisions for us, we’re going to see the same cycle.”