On August 1, I joined hundreds of protesters outside the ICE headquarters in Seattle, demanding an end to the detention and inhumane treatment of immigrant families and children along the US-Mexico border and calling on the Washington State Legislature to ban private immigration detention centers, including the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, which is the largest private immigration prison in the US. Below is the speech I gave at the rally.
Dear friends and immigrant rights advocates:
The Trump administration has been perpetrating horrendous conditions at the border camps and detention centers along the US-Mexico border.
We have heard gut wrenching reports from the concentration camps. Babies sitting in soiled diapers for days on end. Clothes that haven’t been washed in weeks. Pregnant teens sleeping on concrete floors with only an aluminum blanket. The detention centers are filled beyond capacity, with 200 people crammed into one cell being forced to fight for enough floor space to lie down. Refrigerators are reported as having open bags of raw chicken leaking blood onto the shelves and candy is being used to lure hungry children back into their cells.
The conditions many immigrants are fleeing – including vicious narcotics gangs, collapsed economies, ecological disaster – are to a very large degree the result of the policies of US imperialism, which has ruthlessly dominated the region for 150 years, and they reflect the fundamental nature of global capitalism itself. This includes literally dozens of military interventions in the region, support for military coups, and the imposition of the “free trade” agreement, CAFTA.
The racist, sexist, anti-worker predator-in-chief Trump is attacking immigrant rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and workers rights. We need a united movement to bring down Trump, the right wing, and the billionaire class he represents.
We have seen how our movements cannot rely on business-as-usual politics. We saw how Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi pushed through a Senate bill that contained far fewer protections for children than many House Democrats were willing to accept. The bill she advocated, which passed with more Republican than Democratic support, got rid of specific provisions like a 90-day time limit on children being held in temporary intake facilities. This correctly led to fury from left Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who called this “an abdication of power we should refuse to accept.” I commend Ocasio-Cortez and join her in saying that we should refuse to accept this kind of betrayal of immigrant communities and working people.
The best direction for our movement comes from genuine, self-sacrificing community leaders who organized today’s action. From immigrant rights leaders like Maru Mora-Villalpando, who are courageously taking on serious personal risks in order to build our movements. From the millions of people nationwide who have marched, rallied, protested, and engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience since Trump took office. Let’s remember that it was the direct action taken by ordinary people at the airports that defeated Trump’s first attempted Muslim Travel Ban.
Workers themselves are showing the way nationwide. It was the action by TSA employees, and unions such as the Association of Flight Attendants, that forced Trump to end the federal government shutdown. Many unions are helping their immigrant members get freed from detention and saved from deportation. Non-union workers at Wayfair corporation bravely went on strike when they found out that the furniture they were building was being sent to border camps and detention centers, and making profits for the Wayfair millionaires from the misery of immigrant families and children. Our movement also includes tech workers throughout the nation, including workers at Amazon, who are standing with the immigrant community via the #NoTech4ICE movement, demanding Amazon and other tech corporations cut ties from ICE.
In Seattle and Washington State, we are building our grassroots movement to demand: Shut down the camps! End the detentions and deportations! Full legalization and citizenship rights for immigrant workers! We are also demanding an immediate ban on private for-profit immigration detention centers throughout the state, like the Northwest Detention Center. Illinois recently became the first state to ban private detention centers. Let’s make Washington state the second! We are demanding that the Seattle Mayor and City Council end the collaboration of the Seattle Police Department with Homeland Security Investigations!
We need more action like today’s to not only free immigrants from detention but also to make our cities REAL sanctuary cities. That means not allowing Seattle to become a playground for the rich, and fighting for bold public policy to make Seattle affordable for all, regardless of income. We need universal rent control, free of corporate loopholes. We need a massive expansion of quality, affordable, social housing funded by taxing big businesses like Amazon. To win any of this, we need movements that are independent of politicians tied to big business, and that unite all working people, across race, national origin, language, and gender. I look forward to continuing to fight alongside you all.
Councilmember Kshama Sawant