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Occupy ICE protesters disrupted hearings — but made things worse for the detained immigrants

Protesters have shown up at immigrant detention facilities from California to New York. Occupy ICE protesters forced the cancellation of hearings Monday at the New York ICE office. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Protesters from the Occupy ICE movement forced the cancellation of immigration hearings Monday at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in New York City, The Hill reported. But the protesters may have caused the unintended consequence of causing immigrants to be detained for weeks longer.

Demonstrators have formed a blockade around an ICE building that serves as a processing center and temporary detention facility with the intention of preventing employees from going in and out of the building or transferring immigrants to county jails, according to the Gothamist.

"We don't want these vans to go where they're trying to go, so the more bodies we have here, the better our chances will be," Occupy ICE organizer Kim Kelly said.

What's the story?

Department of Justice officials announced the cancellation of hearings on Sunday night, as protesters gathered with the intention of staying overnight.

ICE spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow said in a statement that the cancellation was "made in order to ensure the safety of ICE employees, the court, the public and the detainees."

While protesters celebrated that victory, their actions may have had serious negative implications on the very people they claim they want to help. From The Hill:

Many protesters celebrated the news that their occupation prompted delays in some operations at the center. Others, including at least one attorney, said that the decision was actually in the agency’s favor and may result in some immigrants being detained for weeks longer than expected.

What about Occupy ICE?

Last week, a small group of people gathered in front of a Portland, Oregon, ICE facility to hold a candlelight vigil for children who had been separated from their parents while trying to illegally cross the border. Then, those people got an idea. According to the Washington Post:

After the candles were blown out, some of the demonstrators decided to stay, stumbling onto a more effective form of protest with a simple line of reasoning: ICE cannot deport people if immigration judges, lawyers and litigants cannot physically enter its facilities.

More demonstrators showed up, and they blockaded the building and forced it to close. It stretched into a second week, with demonstrators even removing the American flag from outside the building and raising a flag that read "Refugees Welcome."

The protest method spread to other cities, gaining momentum and attention through social media. With Federal Protective Service officers warning protesters that they will be subject to arrest if they continue to obstruct the entrances to ICE facilities, and protesters maintaining their right to assemble, the situation could escalate in coming days.

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