Immigrant rights activists surround ICE headquarters, demand the agency's closure

Displaying a banner that said “dignity not deportation,” the protesters from Never Again Action and Movimiento Cosecha formed a human chain around ICE, demanding the end of deportations

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By Ben Kesslen

Singing songs in Hebrew and Spanish, a coalition of hundreds of activists, undocumented immigrants and immigrant justice activists marched from the National Mall in Washington to the headquarters of Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday, calling for the agency’s closure and the immediate legalization of all undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

The protesters, organized by Never Again Action, a Jewish organization working to “shut down ICE,” and the immigrant justice group Movimiento Cosecha, surrounded the agency’s headquarters, blocking the entrances and surrounding roads. Forming a human chain, the protesters said they were sending a message that they won’t accept “business as usual” on immigration policy.

Tuesday’s action comes after two weeks of protests organized by Never Again Action that mobilized thousands of Jews around the country to march about the conditions migrants are facing in government detention.

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Julia Davidovitz, 25, a preschool teacher in Boston involved with Never Again Action, came down to D.C. for the protest. She said the partnership between Never Again and Movimiento Cosecha is meant to make clear that Jews like her won’t stay silent about the immigration crisis.

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Cata Santiago, 22, a member of Movimiento Cosecha, was glad to see the two groups join forces to make their message even louder.

“It's been empowering to see the Jewish community say 'Actually, let’s go beyond this semantic debate,'” Santiago said, referring to the controversy sparked when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., likened migrant detention centers as concentration camps. “It’s been vital to see Jewish activists take an active role in this work and put their bodies on the line.”

Protesters told NBC News that since they formed a human chain around ICE’s headquarters early Tuesday afternoon, nobody had entered or left the building.

Holding a banner that read, “dignity not deportation,” the protesters chanted and demanded the immediate release of all detained immigrants, the end of deportations, the reunification of families separated at the border as well as asking 2020 Democratic candidates to commit to the immediate legalization of all undocumented immigrants.

Davidovitz said the action felt somber, but also spiritual. “Our communities are deeply in solidarity with each other," she said.