Gallery: Homeland Security Protest
SAN BERNARDINO - Several protesters were arrested after the street in front of the Department of Homeland Security's field office was blocked during an immigration protest, police said.
And by declaring they were in the country illegally, the protesters put themselves squarely in the path of policies that check the immigration status of people arrested for other crimes and enable their deportation.
A group of about 35 protesters said they were tired of hiding the fact that their parents illegally brought them to the country as children, saying they consider themselves Americans.
"No papers, no fear - immigrants are marching here," they chanted, circling several seated illegal immigrants in the middle of Rialto Avenue.
According to protest organizers, 10 of the 12 people they said were arrested could face deportation and two were U.S. citizens.
The protest opposed the Secure Communities program, which sends fingerprints taken during the booking process to Immigration and Custom Enforcement - part of the Department of Homeland Security - to prioritize the deportation of repeat immigration violators and those who pose a threat to public safety, according to ICE.
"The only thing I've ever asked for in this country is a better education," Ruben Barrera, a Los Angeles resident and an illegal immigrant, said before he was arrested. "We're about to send a message that we are no longer afraid....Come out of the shadows and fight for justice."
Several of those arrested were from the Inland Empire, with others coming from the greater Los Angeles area.
Police warned the protesters several times in English and Spanish they would be arrested if they didn't move to the sidewalk. After the warning, most left the street and watched as the remaining protesters were put into police cars.
Other chants opposed "racist police" and compared police to immigration authorities, calling both "porqueria" - Spanish for trash.
Another program being protested, 287(g), sets up a partnership between ICE and some law enforcement agencies, including the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the agency supported the right of people to voice their opinion without interference.
"We recognize that our nation's broken immigration system requires serious solutions, and we fully support comprehensive immigration reform efforts," she said. "While we continue to work with Congress to enact reform, ICE remains committed to sensible, effective immigration enforcement that focuses first on convicted criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety."