Latinx domestic workers, day laborers, other immigrant workers and folks from the Graton Day Labor Center held a socially distanced vigil along the public sidewalk on Sebastopol Road and West Avenue in Santa Rosa Friday evening to condemn and express outrage amid the recent news of forced sterilizations of incarcerated immigrant women.
Members from the day labor center handed out candles for the vigil and folks walked along Sebastopol Road from 6 to 7 p.m. in a somber show of solidarity.
The moral outrage felt by many comes on the heels of a recent whistleblower report detailing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) allowance of non-consensual hysterectomies on incarcerated immigrant women held in detention centers.
“The goal of tonight’s vigil is to send a message to public officials and to the community at large, that here in Sonoma County we are morally outraged by what is happening inside the immigrant prisons. We hope that everyone will do everything in their power to stop the cruelty and come to our senses and allow immigrant families to be together and not detained,” said Renee Saucedo, the program director for the Graton Day Labor Center/Women’s Labor and Solidarity Alliance (ALMAS) in an interview before the vigil.
The whistleblower of the ICE incidents, Dawn Wooten, was a nurse at the ICE Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia. Wooten had revealed that ICE surgically removed an “inordinate” number of women's wombs against their will.
Socorro Diaz, a domestic worker and leader of ALMAS, a program of the Graton Day Labor Center, said in a press release from the day labor center, that many in Sonoma County cannot tolerate the abuse of women and families.
“Many of us living in Sonoma County can no longer tolerate the abuse of women, children and entire families in the immigrant prisons. Separating mothers from their children, exposing them to COVID-19 and forcibly sterilizing them is torture, and all of these immigrant prisons should be shut down immediately,” Diaz said.
According to the same press release, currently 2,000 children and tens of thousands of adults remain in immigration detention across the country. Six detained people have died from the COVID-19 virus this year and at least six children have died in ICE custody since 2017.
The Friday, Sept. 25 vigil is also being considered part of a national day of action called by the Domestic Worker Alliance under the banner #FreeTheFamilies.
Deysi Lopez, an ALMAS leader, said, “This is absolutely despicable, and unfortunately, not new in our nation’s history. Moreover, this is out of the ordinary for ICE. It’s just another link in a long chain of racism, abuse and neglect that immigration authorities have inflicted on women, children, and families in their care all over the country. Enough is enough. All families deserve to be free and together.”
Saucedo said the national umbrella of the ALMAS group, the National Alliance of Domestic Workers, are holding vigils and mobilizations nationally in response to the ICE sterilization incidents and the treatment of women in detention centers.
“We’re standing in solidarity with fellow Latinx and indigenous women to say that we won’t tolerate being treated like this,” Saucedo said. “This is nothing new but it’s still as shocking when it happens today.”