Angry over President Trump's decision regarding young undocumented immigrants, protesters rallied late today outside the Buffalo offices of one of his political backers.
The protest, organized by pro-immigration groups, focused on Trump's relationship with Delaware North Chairman Jeremy M. Jacobs and the recent move by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement into the company's new headquarters building.
Organizers said ICE's move into the Delaware North building came as more than 1,000 undocumented local immigrants faced deportation hearings in Buffalo.
"We have a broken immigration system and we have an agency, ICE, in the business of administering injustice instead of justice," said Nicole Hallett, a local immigration lawyer and an assistant clinical professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law.
Hallett said the protest, organized by Justice for Migrant Families of Western New York, was intended to place a spotlight on ICE in the wake of Trump's decision to end DACA, the federal program that protected more than 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came here as children.
Two of those young people are Hallett's clients and they live here in Western New York.
"They are now in a position where they can't plan for their future," she said.
The march, which started at Trinity Episcopal Church, 371 Delaware Ave., comes eight months after Jacobs and two others hosted a Trump fundraiser at the new building at Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street.
Jacobs, in a statement Wednesday, distanced himself from Trump's decision and noted that Delaware North does not own its new headquarters building and has no say in who rents space there.
"Our country was built on the principles of acceptance and compassion," Jacobs said. "I am fortunate that our borders were open to dreamers, like my grandparents, whose lives were spared the horrors of the Holocaust. We hope for a resolution that enables and encourages dreamers to continue their many contributions to our universities, our companies and our social diversity."
Carra Stratton, a member of Justice for Migrant Families, said the protest, which included a march down Delaware Avenue, will also highlight the problems her group and others have had in helping undocumented immigrants visiting ICE's new offices.
"It's just an invisible kind of building," she said.
Stratton said the new 7th floor location is restricted to key-card holders and makes it difficult for undocumented immigrants to appear for their high-stakes appointments.
She said the building contains signs for the Westin hotel and the Patina 250 restaurant but there is no exterior signage indicating ICE is also located there.
In the group's statement, Jennifer Connor, co-founder of Justice for Migrant Families, said she was recently turned away by security at the ICE office and indicated there have been reports of immigration lawyers being barred from accompanying clients to appointments.
ICE declined to comment Wednesday.