“The Civil Rights Movement started because our public transit system was racist.”--Lateefah Simons (BART Board)
On Thursday (June 22, 2017), BART’s governing board voted on a measure that would prohibit BART riders from being asked about their immigration status. In reaction to the recent pressure from the federal government and particularly, ICE, many undocumented BART riders presented themselves at the meeting to share their personal stories around fear and public transit. Genesis attended to support this issue and to continue our research on the BART policies around youth passes and on the BART elevators.
Director Lateefah Simons, who drafted the policy, highlighted the importance of the measure by stating,, “The Civil Rights Movement started because our public transit system was racist.” She insisted that public transit issues are not foreign to Civil rights cases. She was first moved by the issue of undocumented immigrants when she was approached by a Honduran immigrant family who feared being deported for simply relying on BART. Director Simons expressed her concern with most undocumented families not reporting dangerous incidents because of the fear of being deported. This policy, that successfully passed with a 8-1 vote, allows riders to not fear being racially profiled and harassed about their legal status on BART.
The room was filled with various BART riders and allied organizations who supported the bill. Courageous undocumented women and men stood in front of the board and shared their stories.
Bob Allen, a representative from Urban Habitat, noted the importance of accountability and systemic racism with regards to BART. He pressured the board by stating that California, as the 6th largest economy in the world, and its relation with over 10 million immigrants is not an outlier. “You have to take responsibility and own up to your complicity with structural racism,” he stated in his testimony to the BART Board, “This is a chance to make it right.”
Much like Rosa Parks in 1955 who organized and used her action on public transit to push for change, this action on Thursday was a way to hold up how public transit remains a way for our community to access opportunity.
Read the full ordinance here, starting with page 47