The Central Valley farmworker community and immigrant rights advocates continued their fight for immigrant rights last week as they welcomed the ‘Caravan Against Fear’ on April 12 in a protest outside Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims’ office.
“We are welcoming caravaners that are traveling from northern California all the way down to Southern California, even through Arizona, Texas and all the way down to the Gulf of México. And they are going to come back on May 1 in time to celebrate May Day, International Workers Day,” said Eriberto Fernández, civic engagement and policy organizer for the United Farmworker Foundation.
The Caravan Against Fear arrived a little after 10:45 a.m. in Fresno. As caravaners made their way to the podium, they held hands and chanted “When I say ‘Against,’ you say ‘fear.’”
“Fresno County is not taking a back seat on this fight. Se puede o no se puede,” said Fernández of the Trump administration deportation efforts as he welcomed caravaners. “Today we are honored to stand in solidarity again and welcomed the Caravan Against Fear.”
The protest’s goal in Fresno was to increase pressure for the sheriff to stop collaborating with Trump Administration’s immigration enforcement efforts and deportations.
“We are here today to ask the sheriff to rethink her position on collaborating with ICE,” said Mi Familia Vota state director Samuel Molina. “We really want to keep families together. That is the message we are sending out today.”
Fernández said they are “telling Fresno community at large to welcome immigrants just as we are welcoming caravaners today.”
The ‘Caravan Against Fear’ started on April 10 with a press conference in Sacramento as a mobilization to protect immigrant families and unite communities.
The Fresno stop came on the caravan’s third day on its way across California on its way to the Mexican border.
Molina said the Fresno stop was important because they want to make sure all residents in Fresno County including undocumented residents are “well integrated into society, and we are sending the message that we are here for them, we support them and are going to do everything we can to protect them.”
Later in the day, the caravan also stopped in Bakersfield at the Kern County Sheriff’s Department office.
On April 11, the caravan led a massive protest at the federal detention center in Richmond.
According to organizers, the caravan is building a movement to defend immigrant rights, keep families together, “resist Trump’s cruel and racist immigration policies, and build momentum for a national strike on May 1.”
The caravan’s purpose is aimed to put pressure on legislators to pass expansive sanctuary policies for all, refuse to cooperate with ICE, withhold funding for deportations or border wall construction and restore constitutional protections to people living along the border.
Valeska Sánchez, a Fresno resident is participating in the caravan.
Sánchez, a United State citizen, said she wanted to volunteer to be part of the caravan because at one point in her life she was also an undocumented immigrant.
She will be traveling with the caravan for a week with her last stop being San Diego before she heads back to the Valley.
Brisa Cruz, 26, was one of the many Fresno residents who came out in support of the caravan in downtown Fresno.
“I am a DACA recipient and I am here to show support,” Cruz said.
Fresno resident Alexandros Acedo was also at the rally showing support to the caravaners.
Acedo, who is a social studies teacher, said it is important that people make those historical connections of things that happened in the pass and that are repeating now.
“I support the caravan. I support human rights, this is human dignity we are talking about,” Acedo said. “This is basic human dignity.”
However the Caravan Against Fear also attracted some opposition.
Holding a sign that read “American First,” Raymond Hernández stood at the steps of the sheriff’s office showing support on the sheriff collaboration with ICE.
Hernández said he heard on the news that morning that there was going to be a rally about immigrants that are law abiding but “saw there was a conflict” when he realized the rally was taking place outside the sheriff office.
“I believe the real message here is that they want you protest Sheriff Mims deporting illegal immigrants that had committed crimes,” Hernández said. “So I am here to say that as far as the lawlessness that this country has committed against our own laws needs to stop and that finally we have a president and an attorney general that would finally enforce our laws.”
The Caravan is sponsored by a diverse and growing coalition of labor, community, human rights, religious, civic, environmental, and other organizations, including: SEIU (United Service Workers West), National Day Labor Organizing Network, Border Network for Human Rights, Southern Border Communities Coalition, Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance, Radio Bilingüe, Global Exchange, and dozens of other organizations in both the U.S. and México.