The arrest of a high-profile undocumented protester has brought immigration issues to the forefront of the movement. In California on Monday, Francisco “Pancho” Ramos Stierle was seized while meditating at Oscar Grant Plaza during an early morning raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment. Rather than being released on bail, Pancho was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody under the Secure Communities program, which shares arrest information from local jails with federal immigration agents. Thousands of his supporters launched a campaign for his release, which included a Change.org petition that attracted 6,600 signatures in just 24 hours. Thursday morning, Pancho was finally released from ICE custody. Pancho joins us from Berkeley, California. “Every time the people ask me, 'Where are you from?' I say, 'Well, I'm from planet earth.’ 'And where's your citizenship?’ 'Well, I'm a citizen of the world.’ So that created a little bit more time, but… they have the fingerprints,” he says. “So, at the end of the day, this is what’s happening. Instead of using these resources for building more clinics, for fixing those bridges, for getting more schools, for having meaningful livelihood, we’re using those resources—some people in the 1 percent are using those resources to harass peaceful people, to harass nonviolent people, to harass people who are looking for creating communities in harmony.” [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn across the country to Berkeley and Oakland, California. Juan?
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, the Department of Homeland Security has begun a highly anticipated review of all deportation cases before the immigration courts. According to a memo obtained by the New York Times, the Department has begun a nationwide training program to instruct enforcement agents and prosecuting lawyers in how to focus on speeding up the deportations of dangerous criminals and halting those of undocumented immigrants with clean records.
Well, we turn now to Occupy Oakland, where the arrest of a high-profile undocumented protester has brought immigration issues to the forefront of the movement. On Monday, Francisco “Pancho” Ramos Stierle was arrested while meditating at the Oscar Grant Plaza during an early morning raid on Occupy Oakland encampment. He was charged with two misdemeanors: “refusing to disperse” and “loitering.” However, rather than being released on bail, Pancho was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody under the Secure Communities program, which shares arrest information from local jails with federal immigration agents.
AMY GOODMAN: Even after the District Attorney’s Office dropped all protest-related charges against Pancho Wednesday, it said it could not undo the federal hold. Thousands of Pancho’s supporters launched a campaign for his release, which included a Change.org petition that attracted 6,600 signatures in just 24 hours. Thursday morning, Pancho was finally released from ICE custody. It will be up to the immigration courts to decide whether Pancho has a legal basis to remain in the U.S. He came to the United States six years ago on a student visa to seek a master’s degree in astrophysics at UC Berkeley. However, he dropped out over concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation.
We are going to a University of California, Berkeley, TV studio right now, where Pancho joins us, Francisco “Pancho” Ramos Stierle himself.
Pancho, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you tell us what happened, from police custody right into ICE hands?
FRANCISCO ”PANCHO” RAMOS STIERLE: Yes. Good morning, Amy and Juan.
Well, basically, after they arrest everybody of the people that did civil disobedience, we had a group of people that—they call it the interfaith. And I was just practicing receptive silence. And these people were released. And people inside of the system, they want to really get your information exactly to get through that database of ICE. So, what I would say for people that are looking around for all our brothers and sisters, you don’t have to answer those questions. So every time the people ask me, “Where are you from?” I say, “Well, I’m from planet earth.” “And where is your citizenship?” “Well, I’m a citizen of the world.” So that created a little bit more time, but that—you know, it lasted that much, because they have the fingerprints.
So, at the end of the day, this is what’s happening. Instead of using these resources for building more clinics, for fixing those bridges, for getting more schools, for having meaningful livelihood, we’re using those resources—some people in the 1 percent are using those resources to harass peaceful people, to harass nonviolent people, to harass people who are looking for creating communities in harmony. And this is just another example of what happened two weeks ago, when the city of Oakland used two million dollars to oppress people in using rubber bullets, tear gas and helicopters. And in the same day, they didn’t close one or two, they closed five schools. So this is just a small example on how this is not a economic crisis. This is a crisis of priorities, because the resources are right there, and they can be used for oppressing people, or they can be used to harassing people for fingerprints.
I was outraged today. I was in a place maybe three meters by six meters with 42 people. We were two people per square meter in that place. Many of us were with shackles and with handcuffs. And I learned later that there’s a program that you can have a bracelet in your ankle. A bracelet ankle. I was like, “What? Are we using money and GPS to monitor people like that? Like, this is the modern slavery, wearing many of those things.” So, I think that, again, we are really missing the boat. So what we’re saying is that we’re the 99 percent, facilitating the healing, facilitating the awakening of the 100 percent. So that was pretty much what happened.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And Pancho, once you were detained, you were—
FRANCISCO ”PANCHO” RAMOS STIERLE: Yes.
JUAN GONZALEZ: —treated as a high-security prisoner? Could you talk about that?
FRANCISCO ”PANCHO” RAMOS STIERLE: Oh, that was incredible. Oh, yeah, yeah, I would love to. So, the idea here—I loved the story you shared that this brother, you know, was working on Wall Street, and then he is using all those resources to share with the movement. So, the idea of this movement to be the non-violence of the strong, the anarchism of the strong, is that we need to touch the heart of police officers, to touch the heart of these Wall Street people, to touch the heart of these deputies.
So, I was friends with one of these deputies, and he was very interesting, because I was—if you—I mean, if you’re in one of those jails—I was in Santa Rita—and what I do for self-care, I meditate. So I was meditating most of the time. And he got very curious. And he’s like, “Yo, what are you doing there?” So I, you know, share a little bit of what I do for meditation. But then I say, “Hey, brother, like, what’s up with all these colors? Why do we have—you know, we’re dressed in different colors?” And he is like, “Well, blue means is the least dangerous people, and yellow is the most dangerous people.” And I was, “And why I’m dressing in red?” “Oh, that’s the ultra-dangerous people.” And I was like, “OK,” and I was, you know, with shackles and with handcuffs.
AMY GOODMAN: Pancho, we’re going to have to leave it—
FRANCISCO ”PANCHO” RAMOS STIERLE: And I understand that maybe—yes?
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there—
FRANCISCO ”PANCHO” RAMOS STIERLE: OK.
AMY GOODMAN: —because the show is ending. I want to thank you for being with us.
FRANCISCO ”PANCHO” RAMOS STIERLE: OK, just let me tell—let me tell you this—
AMY GOODMAN: Francisco “Pancho” Ramos Stierle, undocumented immigrant, arrested while meditating at Oscar Grant Plaza.