Immigrant Activists Paint 29th Street With Protest Art, Rally at Montrose
By July 25, 2022 0 1674•
They came in a bus from Wisconsin, by cars and trains and planes from Boston, New York and Illinois to gather at 8 a.m., Monday, July 25, in front of the Georgetown home of Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Majorkas on 29th Street NW, between P and Q Streets.
The 150 or so demonstrators watched – along with close to 100 Metropolitan Police and U.S. Secret Service Police at one point — “protest artists” paint “End 287g” in large yellow letters on the city street. Then, the protestors marched peacefully to Montrose Park on R Street for a rally, picnic and testimonials about the fear and trauma that immigrants who live and work in the United States illegally (aka “undocumented” or “unauthorized” immigrants”) and their families experience living in counties in the U.S,. that employ Section 287g contracts. “The families are being terrorized,” protesters say.
Section 287g of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows the DHS and law enforcement agencies to make agreements, which require the state and local officers to receive training and work under the supervision of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The intention was to give ICE officials in charge of immigration enforcement actions inside the nation since 9/11, extra help from trained deputized local police. But immigration rights groups see it differently.
“287g is a broken and discriminatory program that gives law enforcement the power to target and separate families and is active in eight Wisconsin counties,” said Primitivo Torres Martinez the Deputy Director of Voces de la Frontera in Wisconsin who was one of the organizers of the demonstration in Georgetown. “Our families must be protected.”
“My children, who are all American citizens, are terrified, traumatized whenever a police car pulls up behind or along side of us,” Karina, a mother in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told The Georgetowner. “They know I don’t have a driver’s license because I am undocumented and Wisconsin does not allow it. But I have to drive to take kids to school, go shopping. I have been stopped and if I get caught three times driving without a license, that’s a felony and I could go to prison.” Karina does not know personally anyone who has been deported because of driving without a license. “It all depends,” said the Wisconsin mom, who has been living in the U.S. for more than 20 years.
What upsets Torres and Karina most of all, however, and what brought them to Washington, D.C., to protest, is that they had been given personal, eye-to-eye promises in the summer of 2020 by then Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris that she and President Biden would end the 287g contracts shortly after their taking office. “She promised me,” Katrina said. “I asked her, ‘Are you sure? Don’t make promises you can’t keep. And she said “Yes, I am sure.’” Torres added, “She looked me in the eye and said it.”
But the Biden administration has not ended 287g contracts. In fact, there are now eight counties in Wisconsin that have actively deputized police officers as immigration agents under 287g, where under Trump who had focused particularly on the section to increase enforcement of immigration laws, only one county did so. “All of the 287g counties vote dominantly Republican,” Torres said. “Biden could end in an instant that contracts be allowed, but he hasn’t.”
So far, Majorkas has also been unresponsive to their petitions and to two letters from a group of some 50 Congressional representatives asking him to end 287g, according to Ethan Aronson from Chicago. “287g is the worst, most aggressive policy that deputizes police officers in immigrants’ places of work,” Aronson told The Georgetowner. He and several protestors from Boston who were rallying at Montrose Park came on behalf of “Never Again Action,” a Jewish political action organization that derives its name from the slogan often used in reference to the Holocaust and is focused on protesting ICE.
Majorkas, the first Latino Secretary of Homeland Security was raised in Los Angeles and has Jewish Cuban heritage. He was Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security under Secretary Jeh Johnson, who lived a few blocks away during the Obama administration and was known to be an open, friendly Georgetown neighbor.
The street painting protest is becoming a popular tactic, according to Torres. Designed and painted by a group called Voces de los Artistas, the immigration protest signs are quickly photographed by drones and their images posted on social media. “They are very effective,” he said.
By 11 a.m., the street painting had been entirely washed away in front of the secretary’s house. The street was quiet. No one could say if Majorkas had seen the street painting or heard the protests.
Georgetowner editorial fellow Katherine Schwartz contributed to this report.