Alameda Sheriff gives peaceful protester to ICE: Will Pancho Ramos be deported for meditating?


NOTE: Just days after the tragic killing of a young man near the Occupy Oakland encampment, Mayor Jean Quan gave the Oakland Police the "green light" to once again clear out the encampment on Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza, facing City Hall. In peaceful protest, a group of interfaith activists organized a meditation sit-in and were arrested soon after. Pancho was among those arrested, but because of his immigration status, he was turned over to ICE custody and now faces deportation.

For immediate release: November 17, 2011

Contact: Jon Rodney, 510-207-9520

As Beloved pacifist faces deportation over meditation arrest, local advocates tell county: "Just say no" to immigration holds

 Oakland: This morning, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern submitted to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "hold" and turned peace activist Francisco "Pancho" Ramos Stierle over to immigration authorities for possible deportation, igniting an outcry from community and immigrant rights organizations Bay Area wide. Such holds are voluntary, not mandatory.
 Yesterday afternoon, in a packed courtroom, supporters learned that due to the (voluntary) ICE hold, Ramos Stierle would be sent back to Santa Rita jail to await ICE agents, even though the District Attorney had dropped charges against the respected spiritual leader. Pancho was arrested early Monday morning for peacefully meditating in front of Oakland City Hall during the removal of the Occupy Oakland encampment, a moving image that graced the pages of several papers.
 His detention and possible deportation has inspired 7,300 people signing a petition against his deportation in just two days. The case is now galvanizing calls for Alameda County to transform the way it responds to requests from immigration authorities to hold immigrants for deportation, with the Berkeley City Council passing a resolution on Nov 15 and a broad coalition of organizations calling for change.

 The following is a statement from member organizations of the immigrant rights coalition Alameda County United for Immigrant Rights (ACUDIR), which includes Causa Justa:Just Cause, Street Level Health Project, Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Centro Legal de la Raza, Filipino Advocates for Justice, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the California Immigrant Policy Center, and several other organizations:
"Is this Alameda County, or Alabama? We are shocked by our county's moral failure and call for an immediate transformation of county policy.

 For three days, a dedicated peace activist sat imprisoned in our County Jail even though the charges stemming from his non-violent arrest were dropped. Our tax dollars were used to hold Pancho for the sole purpose of feeding an out of control  politically motivated deportation dragnet that has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with meeting an exorbitant deportation quota.

 Pancho is being detained under the deceptive "Secure Communities" program or S-Comm, a dragnet that unfairly sweeps up community members for detention and deportation. As Pancho's case shows, S-Comm's focus is more spin than safety. Under S-Comm, immigration officials pressure local governments to hold community members like Pancho in jail for extra time so they can be picked up for deportation.
 Once in ICE custody, immigrants enter the shadowy world documented by the new PBS documentary Lost in Detention. The program exposes sexual assaults, beatings, and other abuses in the nation's sprawling network of detention facilities

 How many neighbors, workers, and parents has Alameda County torn from their families under this program? Since S-Comm was imposed on our county, 1,095 residents have been deported.

Turning local law enforcement into immigration agents at local expense is NOT a workable solution and compounds the unfairness of our broken immigration system. The first step toward transforming our broken immigration system is to change our county's policy.
ICE has repeatedly confirmed that Immigration holds are entirely optional. We demand that Alameda County stop submitting to politically motivated federal requests to detain immigrant community members in local jails.
We do not want our precious tax dollars spent towards repressing peaceful protests and instead, we want our resources shared fairly, so that the 99% can live fully and become equal partners in making decisions that affect us all.      
 Pancho was arrested because he stood up for a better world for all of us. The best way we can honor his positive work in the community is by NOT "honoring" ICE's request to hold people like Pancho in jail.