Protesters gathered in front of the Washoe County Jail to speak out against ICE detention centers on Saturday, July 11.
Helen Miranda and Ashley Solano started the movement that has been happening in Reno for the past few weeks.
Solano told This Is Reno she was inspired by watching protests in Los Angeles and feeling outraged that people detained in ICE detention centers were not treated fairly. “We can feel this outrage, but let’s do something about it,” she said. “That’s when Helen and I decided to do it here in Reno.”
One report conducted by the California Department of Justice highlighted inadequate medical and mental health care, language barriers that led to disciplinary action due to miscommunication and lack of due process in obtaining legal services.
The location of Saturday’s protest at the Washoe County Jail was sparked by its listing through the ICE website as one of 137 detention facilities in the country through which the agency operates. Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam has explained during multiple public events that while the WCSO does cooperate with ICE and has space available inside the jail from which ICE agents can operate, the jail does not house an ICE detention facility like the ones currently seen in news media across the country.
“We are trying to get ICE out of jails so we need to go to the jail involved with ICE in our community and protest there,” Miranda said. “There are probably ICE agents on the roof watching us right now. Hopefully, we can be heard by these people, and they can have a change in their mentality to see the humanity behind the families in that jail.”
The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office spoke with Miranda and Solano prior to the event to ensure they had a safe space to protest in front of the facility. Signs were posted in the fenced-off grass area declaring it a “designated protest area” and other signs were posted that contained a message from Sheriff Darin Balaam.
Sarah Johns, the public information officer for Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, told This Is Reno, “We support their First Amendment right and are proud of their work to make this a successful peaceful protest.”
Solano described some of the goals for the protests, saying, “We want to keep ICE officers out of local jails. We want to keep families together. On July 17, children have been ordered to be released from these detention centers, but they are still being separated from their families. What will happen to these kids? We want people to be able to seek asylum. They are here now and are productive in the community. They aren’t criminals; they pay taxes, and they should be given options to stay here legally.”
A man who went by the name of Hosway said, “I have seen three of my uncles be deported with videos of them in handcuffs and in cages. Had my mom or my family [come] to the U.S. at a different time, I could have been one of those kids in the cages. My brother and my cousins could have been those kids in cages. I find it’s really necessary and important for us to be out here right now to hopefully have our voices be heard.”
Miranda and Solano have future plans for additional protests in the area and are spearheading a social media movement that is beginning to attract contributors from states around the nation. It’s called Project Unity. Their plan is to collect personal videos of community members around the nation describing their experiences with ICE and racism. They are currently accepting videos through their Instagram and Facebook pages.
Trevor Bexon has lived in Reno, Nevada since 2004. He believes Northern Nevada has a unique story that he hopes to share with others while leaving a visual history for future study.