In an effort to keep DACA — the threatened Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy — from being forgotten, some Jewish protesters are giving up their lunch hours for a cause this week. The group of mostly Jewish demonstrators is staking out a federal immigration office in San Francisco through Thursday, Feb. 8.
“We’re out there at noon every day until Thursday, leading up to the next budget vote,” said Carrie Sterns of Bend the Arc, a Jewish social justice organization with an office in San Francisco. She was referring to the negotiations over including legislation on DACA in the federal spending bill, which Congress must pass by midnight Thursday or the government will shut down again.
The protests this week outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, in San Francisco’s Financial District, mark the continuation of earlier protests organized by Bend the Arc, Reform California (a project of the Religion Action Center of Reform Judaism), the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council, the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley’s Community Relations Council and Faith in Action Bay Area (a multifaith network of congregations and community leaders).
Those drew upwards of 100 people on Jan. 26 and Feb. 2. The smaller protest on Monday, Feb. 5 had around 20 participants, but they were determined to stick it out for “Dreamers,” as people who were brought to the country illegally as minors are known. The daily protests, tabbed “Let My People Stay,” are co-sponsored by Faith in Action Bay Area and Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.
Rabbi Sheldon Lewis, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, drove up to San Francisco with a carful of fellow demonstrators in order to be there.
“I think we’re expressing a core Jewish value about caring for people on the margins of society,” he said.
As the protest started, he led the group in singing “Olam Chesed Yibaneh” (“I will build this world from love”). Then the group took up their signs and waited patiently on the sidewalk.
Lewis and several other Bay Area Jews were arrested at a similar protest in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 17,
“We’ve had a lot of solidarity and honking of horns,” said Donna Nitzberg of San Francisco. “A lot of thank yous. San Francisco is a great city to live in. We’ve seen a lot of people pay attention and take action. It’s clear when you put out a call for the Jewish community to show up, they do.”