‘We’re all immigrants’: Central Coast residents rally against immigration policies

Posted at 11:57 AM, Jun 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-30 14:57:53-04

Nationwide protests against the Trump Administration’s immigration policies hit the Central Coast Saturday morning. 

Dozens of residents gathered in downtown San Luis Obispo to call on the government for changes to their immigration policies. All had different expectations from the event. 

"I’m almost 75 years old and for the past 50 years, I’ve sen a lot of civil rights happen in this country and I’m seeing them slowly chipped away – women’s rights, civil rights," said Susan Wiest of Los Osos. "I don’t want to see America turn into a country where we’re fighting each other and disagreeing with each other."

"We’re all immigrants in one way or another unless you’re an American-Indian," said Paul Choucalas, a Cayucos resident. "My family came here from Greece years ago and I have family here from Spain."

"We’re all descendants of immigrants," said Greg Stone, a Cambria resident. "My maternal great-grandmother was an immigrant from Sweden. I remember when I was in high school, the quote on the Statue of Liberty, I memorized it and I never forgot it because it meant something to me: ‘Give me your tired, your poor. This is the land of opportunity and that’s what makes us grow.’"

Many residents hoped to reunite families, after weeks of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement carrying out orders to separate undocumented families. 

"The way that the government is handling this right now is really wrong," Choucalas said. "They’re using the kids as a pawn in a chess game that we don’t even really understand."

"Immigration is a resource, just like petroleum, and we should capitalize on that resource and welcome it," Stone said.

Thousands of people have been calling on lawmakers to "abolish" or "prosecute" ICE. In a tweet Sunday morning, President Trump said those who work in ICE are safe. 

Many protesters had different reasons why they participated in Saturday’s rallies. 

"The people that are fighting this the most, they don’t want any of the jobs they say these guys are taking," Choucalas said.

There are planned protests in other areas of the Central Coast, including in Santa Maria Saturday night. CAUSE, the Fund for Santa Barbara and Planned Parenthood will host a community rally against family detention and separation at the Santa Maria ICE facility, located at 740 W. Century St., Santa Maria. That event is from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

"The cruel treatment of immigrants has provoked mass public outcry, and stirred up longstanding tensions over the 2014 approval of an ICE facility in Santa Maria," organizers wrote in the event description. "Four years ago, over 3,000 Santa Maria residents rallied to oppose the ICE facility, citing ICE’s inhumane practices, objections which were ignored by city council at the time. Protestors will gather at the ICE office and demand an end to family separation and detention by the agency, both locally and at the border."

This story will be updated.