On Thursday, more than 250 families and citizens gathered in front of the Summit County Courthouse in Akron, Ohio, to protest the Aug. 16 arrest of 35 workers from six Mariachi Locos restaurants in the area, according to The Akron Beagle Journal.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid occurred just two days before the one-year anniversary of Obama’s new immigration policy to prioritize the deportation of undocumented immigrants with criminal records, preventing non-priority immigrants from “clogging the system.” The policy shift was implemented after rallies demanding immigration reform spread across the country following the historic number of deportations during Obama's first term in office.
Miguel Castro, owner of the Mexican restaurant chain, told the Akron-based newspaper that during the raid agents handcuffed everyone, including himself, detaining them for questioning.
HOLA, a Hispanic outreach organization for Northeast Ohio, organized the rally, which included the U.S.-born children of those arrested, in front of the courthouse to highlight that ICE raids were “ripping apart the bonds between children and their parents,” HOLA's executive director Veronica Dahlberg told The Akron Beagle Journal.
The incident is similar to other raids that occurred in the wake of the Obama policy change. Last November, ICE agents arrested 12 employees from the Shogun Buffet and Hibachi Grill in Asheville, North Carolina. Defensa Comunitaria, an Asheville immigrant community group, also conducted a rally against these arrests, seeking immigration reform.
"We believe that the holiday season is a time to spend with family members, not separate families," members of Defensa Comunitaria and the family members of the arrested employees wrote in a statement. "These raids should have no place in Asheville. Intimidation and harassment of immigrant workers does not make our city more secure. We are not safer when hard-working community members are torn from their families in the name of homeland security."
With the Republican and Democratic National Conventions coming up in the next month, immigration continues to be a hot-button issue for Latino groups across the nation. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, an association of the country’s major Hispanic organizations and leaders, recently highlighted immigration reform as particularly important to the GOP, if the party plans to win the Latino vote.
"We're non-partisan, but the extremism the Republican Party is reaching, on a number of issues but particularly on immigration, [is] totally unacceptable," Hector Sanchez, chairman of the coalition and executive director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement told The Huffington Post. "We're here as an aggressive coalition to say, 'enough is enough.'"