Nearly 300 people blocked city streets near the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in San Francisco on Wednesday in protest of immigration raids that resulted in some 150 people being taken into custody across Northern California this week, including at least one in The City.
Protesters blocked off all four intersections surrounding the San Francisco ICE building at 630 Sansome St. for hours as a group including attorneys, students, immigration advocates and city leaders gathered outside.
It is unclear how many of those detained were being held at the facility, and attorneys said they were being denied access to detainees.
“We heard that the detainees were taken out of jurisdiction,” said attorney Francisco Ugarte, who manages the recently formed Immigration Unit at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. Ugarte said some may have been transferred to remote immigration facilities in Stockton and Bakersfield.
Limited information was available to the lawyers working to gain access to the detainees on Wednesday. Jehan Romero, an immigration attorney with Pangea Legal Services, confirmed that 10 people were detained in Napa and one in San Jose in raids this week.
According to Romero, one man was also detained at his San Francisco home on Sunday.
In all, some 30 attorneys were present at the rally vying for access and information about the detainees.
Ugarte said the agency is preventing detainees from exercising their legal right to counsel.
“ICE, as it always does, ignores the laws, federal laws, constitutional laws, and literally tries to prevent people from obtaining attorneys to help them fight their deportation case,” he said.
On Wednesday, Public Defender Jeff Adachi and Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez penned a letter to ICE’s chief counsel demanding access to counsel for the unrepresented detainees.
“We want to make sure people understand their rights,” said Adachi, adding that, upon arrest, detainees have the right to either request or waive a deportation hearing. “Many people qualify for asylum. There may be other reasons why they can stay. At least by having access to a lawyer, they will understand what their rights are and can make an intelligent decision.”
Some protesters — yelling, “Shut ICE down!” — locked themselves together in human chains to block traffic well into the afternoon. Others sat in front of a garage entrance to the building to prevent employees from entering and exiting.
“What we want is for the folks who have been detained in this round of raids to be set free and to be able to have due process if they are still detained,” said protester Trilce Santana. Santana, along with other protesters representing a coalition of organizations supporting immigrants, helped blocked the intersection at Sansome and Washington streets.
Speaking through tears, Santana said raids “destroy families, they spread terror, they make communities unsafe because [immigrants] are not able to reach out for services out of fear.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf first warned immigrant communities on Saturday that federal immigration agents planned raids in the Bay Area within 24 hours.
ICE officials confirmed on Tuesday that more than 150 people were taken into custody across Northern California. They said that about half of those detained had criminal convictions as well as immigration violations.
Schaaf’s warning was denounced as “irresponsible” by ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan, who in a statement on Tuesday said that some 864 people targeted by ICE remained at large.
Also on Tuesday, a Supreme Court ruling curbed the rights of immigrants waiting in detention facilities during immigration proceedings to a bond hearing after six months.
Adachi said his office is “very concerned” the ruling will affect current cases as well as “people who are out on bond.”
“We will stay here today until we get answers, until we are allowed to see the detainees,” he said.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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