Shouts of “immigrant rights are human rights” and “this is what democracy looks life” filled the downtown Tulsa air Saturday afternoon as activists marched from the Tulsa County Courthouse to the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center.
Organizers addressed three demands during the march:
- The passage of a clean DREAM Act by the US Congress;
- The termination of the Tulsa Jail’s 287(g) contract with ICE; and
- That Tulsa establish the infrastructure to become a sanctuary city for migrants and refugees.
Rosa Hernandez, president of Dream Act Oklahoma – Tulsa was one of the primary event organizers and was the first to speak to the crowd of nearly 60 people.
“I came the United States when I was four years old with my mom,” Hernandez said. “The United States is the only home that I’ve ever known. Here I’ve made all of my memories, all of my friends.”
Hernandez told the crowd she was heartbroken when she first learned that she was undocumented.
“I realized then that I couldn’t reach the dreams that I thought I could here in the United States, and the dreams that my mom for so long told me that I could have. Just because we didn’t have a piece of paper that said I was born here,” she said.
Hernandez said that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) had been her saving grace.
The federal department U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approximated that there are 690,000 active DACA recipients in the United States in September, 2017.
USCIS estimated that 1,900 DACA recipients reside in Tulsa.
Amanda Peregrina spoke on behalf of the mothers and grandmothers of Dreamers. Peregrina shared her story, starting with the hurdles she crossed to get a visa several years ago.
“I was really hurting because my children were hungry. I didn’t have a future for them. I couldn’t fight for them,” Peregrina said. “I had to come to this country through the desert, through the water, facing death. I did it because I really love them, I really wanted for them to have a different life than what I had in my country.”
Peregrina worked three jobs to put her children through school and to them a future.
“I feel in my heart that I did a good job. I can see them prospering. I can see them being positive. I can see them being productive for this country,” Peregrina said.
Now as a grandmother, Peregrina continues to help her children by watching her grandchildren while their parents work. However, she lives in fear that she will be deported.
“I can not have a future in this country … I am not able to come out of the shadows,” Peregrina said. “Now we are targets for deportation, just because we committed the crime of loving our children.”
Peregrina’s speech bridged the gap between the protesters first and second issues.
As individuals spoke, a petition made its way through the audience asking for the repeal of an agreement between the Tulsa County Commissioners Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE,) which grants members of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office authority over immigration enforcement in their jurisdiction.
According to the ICE memorandum of agreement with TCSO, officers who have received ICE training are authorized to interrogate any person who they believe to be an alien about their right to be in the US, to serve warrants for arrest of immigration violations, to administer oaths, take and consider evidence, and process individuals, to prepare charging documents and forms for voluntary action and to detain and transport arrested aliens to an ICE detention facility.
The petition, written specifically for Tulsa County Commissioner Ron Peters, alleges that the program has no proven public safety benefit and is an unnecessary financial burden on taxpayers. By Saturday night, the petition had 69 signatures.
New Sanctuary Network Tulsa, a nonprofit supporting undocumented people, plans to keep the petition open for a week before delivering it to Peter’s office.
Jorge Roman-Romero, vice-chair of the Green Country Democratic Socialists of America, thanked the crowd for coming out in less than ideal weather before confronting the “misguided information,” spread by American politicians.
“For so long, we have accepted excuses for discrimination. For so long, we have tolerated and agenda of racism and exclusion. For so long, the rhetoric of the new administration has told them that this is the only way to go, that this is the only way to approach immigration,” Roman-Romero said. “Today I’m here to say enough is enough. Basta ya companeros (Enough, partners.)”
Roman-Romero compared the immigrants rights movement to the civil rights movement, arguing that political pressure should be brought to bear to create more accessible, inclusive and humanitarian immigration laws.
“Every human, by virtue of just being human, is entitled to a dignified life. That, my friends, is a moral imperative,” he said.
In response to the common challenge that immigrants are taking American jobs, Roman-Romero said, “study after study, analysis after analysis has shown that the immigrant community contributes positively to the American economy. They do not only contribute to productivity, but they also contribute enormously to fiscal revenue.”
“The immigrant community is not your adversary,” Roman-Romero said. “The solution to this problem is not creating a world with more walls. It’s creating a world with more bridges.”
From the courthouse the crowd marched to the Sheriff’s office where Hernandez said “We’re (here) because they are the ones tearing our families apart.” The crowd stopped to hear Chance Siribandan, a political activist and part time musician, play an original song about the Trump administration.
From there the group marched on to the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, where they collectively read from a script asking the center to free detained immigrants held inside.
The opportunity to speak was subsequently opened to the audience, a handful of whom expressed their solidarity.
The event was co-hosted by several Tulsa activist groups including New Sanctuary Network Tulsa, Dream Act Oklahoma – Tulsa, Green Country Democratic Socialists of America, Aware Tulsa, Tulsa Women’s March Continues, Oklahoma African American Democratic Federation, Our Revolution – Tulsa and the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice.