1,300 participate in local Families Belong Together rally

Long Beach residents took signs, slogans and spirit on Saturday to participate in a Families Belong Together rally which began at Cesar Chavez Park.

The Families Belong Together events arose nationwide in response to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s separation of migrant children and parents after processing them into detention centers. Along with this, activists used the platform to speak on local issues such as the Long Beach Values Act of 2018 — the city’s sanctuary policy.

According to Maribel Cruz, operations manager of the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, at least 1,300 people attended the local rally. The downtown event was hosted by the LBIRC and Families Belong Together Long Beach.

In March, the Long Beach City Council voted to adopt the Long Beach Values Act, which expands upon California’s Senate Bill No. 54. The state law prevents local and state law enforcement from disclosing citizenship status to immigration enforcement agencies, with certain exceptions.

Under the city’s policy, all city employees are barred from sharing information about a person’s citizenship status with ICE unless the individual has been convicted of crimes listed in the bill’s text. Local activists protested the inclusion of these crimes, or “carve-outs,” because they put those with prior convictions at risk of deportation by stripping the policy’s protections from them.

“This is why, in addition to our demands around ending the inhumane and immoral policy of separating families, incarcerating children and criminalizing migrants in this country, we are calling on Mayor [Robert] Garcia and Long Beach City Council to pass a clean values act and remove the carve-outs so all migrants are protected,” said Lian Cheun, executive director of Khmer Girls in Action.

Democratic Rep. Alan Lowenthal was one of the event’s many guest speakers. Lowenthal likened the detention centers to prisons after sharing with the crowd his experience having visited one.

“We need to reunite families and we need to treat people coming to this country seeking asylum with respect and dignity and love and compassion,” Lowenthal said to an applauding crowd.

Other speakers called for the end of collaboration between the Long Beach Police Department and ICE, the abolishment of ICE and stated that the United States’ history of intervening and invading in Latin American nations has bred poverty and violence which results in migration.

This claim contrasts LBPD police chief Robert Luna’s statement that the department only cooperates with immigration enforcement if a federal warrant is presented. At the March 13 city council meeting, he said that this had not occurred in three years.

Cruz stated the LBIRC does not currently have future rallies planned, but activists shared how concerned community members could take further action at the rally’s conclusion.

“If you are not already part of an organization, if you are not already part of a coalition, get your school, get your church, get a group together and join the Sanctuary Long Beach campaign and be a part of history [by] standing up to the fascist Trump regime,” said Nikole Cababa, a community organizer with the Filipino Migrant Center.

The rally concluded at noon in front of the Glenn M. Anderson Federal Building, which houses various agencies including the Department of Homeland Security. There, activists held up a sign with contact information for numerous local representatives and a script which urges officials to pass a version of the Long Beach Values Act that excludes the “carve-outs.”

“Today was just one march and we need to organize. We need to let our representatives know where we stand,” Cababa said. “They need to hear us, they need to feel us. They need to feel the pressure that we can create on these streets.”