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Hundreds rally outside Baltimore's ICE office in defense of immigrants

Amid a crowd chanting mantras like “Si, se puede” and “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here” stands Betty Robinson. She is 80 years old, has lived in Baltimore for 47 years and has been a civil rights activist for just as long. Robinson was one of the first to show for up for “ICE Out of Baltimore,” a protest hosted by Sanctuary Streets Baltimore and CASA.

Robinson, a white woman, believes in advocacy for minority groups. She lives by Lake Montebello, near the Morgan State University community. For her, it all started in college.

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She recalled being a college senior during the desegregation sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, outraged when she witnessed black students at a lunch counter not being served because of the color of their skin.

“I said, ‘This is not the country I thought I was living in.’ ”

It may have started with the civil rights movement for her, but now she’s advocating for immigration rights as well.

“I know so many young people now who are looking at the immigration crisis and saying, ‘Wait, this isn’t the country I thought it was my country,’ ” she said. “I have to really be out there speaking my piece and demonstrating and assisting in any way I can to make it right.”

“ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” ICE spokeswoman Justine M. Whelan said in an email. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and – if found removable by final order – removal from the United States.”

Earlier this week, ICE officials were sighted making arrests and stopping residents in Long Reach, a Columbia neighborhood with a large Hispanic population. Howard County police said they had been forewarned that ICE might be deploying in the area.

Hundreds of Baltimore residents showed to show support for immigrant communities and advocacy groups at the steps of the ICE field office in Hopkins Plaza, calling for the agency to leave the city.

Sanctuary Streets, an organization that assists immigrant community members, came up with the idea for a protest after President Donald Trump announced ICE arrests and raids in major cities including Baltimore, and then announced that the raids would be postponed until members of Congress developed an immigration plan.

“It sparked a lot of discussion,” Sanctuary Streets volunteer Chelsea Gleason said. “Trump is using this as a political toy and playing with people’s fears.”

CASA, a statewide organization representing the interests of immigrants, helped organize the protest, but other immigration advocacy groups were involved, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.

Baltimore is considered a “welcoming city,” meaning that the city’s police department does not enforce federal immigration policies.

“City Hall has definitely stepped up,” said Sergio España, director of engagement and mobilization at the ACLU of Maryland. “The intention has so far proven to be the case, ensuring that local law enforcement focuses on enforcing state laws, rather than partnering with ICE to become extensions of the federal law enforcement.”

Baltimore residents from small children to senior citizens stood side by side on a humid summer day as immigrant advocacy representatives shouted words of resistance from a bullhorn. They held up handmade signs with phrases like “Have compassion” and “Abolish ICE.”

One of the speakers was CASA representative Carlos Crespo.

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Members of Latino immigrant communities want to take their children to the park, go grocery shopping, go to work and do normal things but they are terrified, he said in Spanish to the gathered crowd. It is important that they have support.

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