Hundreds of people blocked the entrance to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s San Francisco office Tuesday to protest a new national immigration policy that has children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The zero-tolerance policy adopted by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls for U.S. attorneys to prosecute anyone caught trying to enter the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, including parents with children.
The policy has seen more than 2,000 children separated from their parents and placed in federal custody since early May. Recently, media outlets began broadcasting images of crying children, mostly from Central America, being detained in metal cages in warehouses.
At the ICE offices at 630 Sansome St., protesters held up signs accusing ICE of racism.
The protest caused San Francisco Municipal Railway lines 10-Townsend and 12-Folsom/Pacific to be rerouted. As of 3:15 p.m., Muni officials said the bus routes were returning back to normal.
Earlier Tuesday morning, Mayor Mark Farrell and Mayor-Elect London Breed issued statements, calling on Sessions to immediately stop the practice of separating families.
“As a father of three young children I will never support the federal administration’s decision to tear families apart and use children as pawns in a political game. The images we are seeing of children warehoused in metal cages are beyond the pale and sicken me to my core.”
“I am urging the federal government to immediately reconsider their immigration policy changes and provide clear, humane reunification plans. More than ever, we need Congress to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform measures for our country.”
In a statement, Breed said:
“The policy of forcibly removing children from their parents at our border is horrific and unacceptable.”
“Families who are seeking asylum and refuge in our city – our sanctuary city, deserve our support and our compassion. As mayor-elect, I will continue to support our immigrant communities and fight for comprehensive immigration reform so all of our families can live without fear of separation and deportation.”
City Attorney Dennis Herrera also said on social media Tuesday:
“This is not a partisan issue. This is a question of right and wrong. Tearing children from their parents is simply wrong. It is not who we are. Anyone who sees the images of these children being taken away or hears their cries knows this is un-American. It must end.”
Last week, during a speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Sessions said the number of unaccompanied children arriving at the border has increased sharply in the last few years.
According to Sessions, the detained children are provided food, education in their native language, health and dental care, as well as transportation back to their destination city.
“In many cases, children are trafficked, abused or recruited by criminal gangs. No one should subject their child to this treacherous journey – and yet our open borders lobby encourage it every day … There’s only one way to stop this and that is for people to stop smuggling children. Stop crossing the border illegally with your children. Apply to enter lawfully. Wait your turn.”