Demonstrators gathered outside the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) Monday to protest what they called her “silence” on recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in the city.
About four-dozen protesters delivered a letter signed by advocacy groups asking for a meeting with Bowser and calling on her to speak out against arrests of immigrants in the capital.
“We are dismayed by your silence thus far,” 33 advocacy groups and local religious leaders wrote in the letter to Bowser, which was obtained by The Hill. “For D.C. to be a true ‘sanctuary city,’ ICE raids in our communities cannot be met with silence. We ask that you show leadership and stand up to ICE on behalf of D.C.
“We cannot sit idly by while our immigrant friends, colleagues, family members, and neighbors are terrorized by ICE,” they added.
The protesters met with the mayor’s staff, but said they were unable to speak with Bowser herself.
Monday’s protest comes after hundreds of people gathered in Columbia Heights last month to denounce the arrests.
Bowser defended her record on immigration issues.
“Washington, D.C. is a sanctuary city. We protect the rights and humanity of all our residents, and our D.C. values and our local culture are guided by a celebration of diversity and inclusivity,” the mayor wrote in a statement to The Hill.
Sanctuary cities do not enforce federal immigration laws.
Bowser also touted efforts that her administration has made to protect immigrants, including the Immigrant Justice Legal Services Grant Program, which ensures they “have access to the resources they need to understand their rights and find legal support,” according to Bowser.
Though Bowser says she will “continue to make the [grant] program a top priority,” protesters Monday said that her actions don’t go far enough, considering last month’s ICE arrests.
“Is Mayor Bowser really a champion of immigrants if she can’t guarantee the safety of our communities?” Justice for Muslims Collective activist Maha Hilal asked the crowd of protestors Monday.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to keep coming back here, time and time again, because she wants to consider D.C. a sanctuary city, but does nothing to make that happen."
Protestors said they hope their letter forces Bowser “to make D.C. a true sanctuary city and not a sanctuary city in name.”
The letter asks the mayor to detail steps she has taken to “intervene with ICE officials to seek the release of DC residents” by Friday, Aug. 10.