BERKELEY (KRON) — “Close the camps now,” Berkeley councilmember Rashi Kesarwani said to set the tone for Saturday’s well-attended rally at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park.
“We want to send a message to every member of our community,” Kesarwani said. “Whether you are documented or undocumented, that you belong here.”
The rally was inspired by the undocumented children being separated from their parents by federal agents along the southern border.
Just one day prior to the rally, Vice President Mike Pence toured a Texas border patrol station — where hundreds of men are kept in cages without cots in severe heat.
The issue of immigration has appeared to be collectively personal for the Berkeley city council considering its diverse make-up.
“Being treated like animals. Not being afforded the basic dignity that we all have — the privileges that we have,” Berkeley mayor Jesse Arreguin said.
Berkeley, some 50-years ago, declared itself a sanctuary city — the first of its kind in the United States at the time, following the Vietnam war.
“I’ve talked to a number of people who are undocumented,” Arreguin said. “And they’re concerned. They don’t know what’s going to happen.”
In addition to the crisis along the border, Arreguin says planned raids Sunday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on undocumented people in the Bay Area and other parts of the country is causing angst.
Arreguin said he is unaware of any possible operations in Berkeley, but if there are, he says local law enforcement won’t be involved.
“It really gives people pause about whether they should go see the doctor or drop off their kid to school or go to work,” Arreguin said.
Councilmember Rigel Robinson didn’t hold back his thoughts.
“Even just the threat of raids alone is already accomplishing the White House’s primary goal,” he said. “Which is to instill fear in immigrant communities all over the country.”
Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union were also in attendance giving legal advice to those in need.
Faith leaders also offered sanctuary in their churches to undocumented residents fearing an arrest.