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Uhlmann writes: "As ICE stokes fear in immigrant communities, how can activists fight back?"

Border Patrol agents. (photo: Getty)
Border Patrol agents. (photo: Getty)


How Activists Can Fight Back Against ICE

By Natascha Uhlmann, Teen Vogue

15 May 19


In this op-ed, Natascha Uhlmann explains how activists can push back against tactics used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

n April 15, Senate Democrats called to restrict funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a move that would significantly disrupt the Trump administration’s plans for immigration enforcement.

"We cannot support the appropriation of funds that would expand this administration’s unnecessarily cruel immigration enforcement policies, its inhumane immigrant detention systems, or its efforts to build the president’s vanity projects," Democrats wrote in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee. The senators called for a rejection of the Trump administration’s request for additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and limits on DHS funding for immigrant detention and deportation.

So far, 20 Democratic senators have signed the letter, including 2020 presidential contenders Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker.

The letter followed an April ICE raid on CVE Technology Group in Allen, Texas, the largest worksite raid in the last decade. More than 280 workers were detained, leaving families scrambling in the aftermath. “Right now, I'm the only support for my family," Erica Salvador, one of the workers caught up in the raid, told NBC New York. “I had too many years here, I had my life.”

The Trump administration has pursued significant changes in immigration policy. In the first year of Trump’s presidency, he signed a 2017 executive order that rescinded Obama-era guidelines on which immigrants should be prioritized for deportation. Trump’s new deportation priorities have granted ICE significant leeway, with significant consequences: As outlined by the executive order, anyone who enters the country “illegally” is considered a “significant threat to national security and public safety” and is a priority. As a result, ICE is emboldened to pursue virtually any immigrant in its path.

Immigration raids sow terror that those impacted say can be hard to move past, even for people who avoid detention and deportation. In the weeks and months following a raid, businesses shut down and families struggle to pay their bills. Children of immigrants face post-traumatic stress disorder and other adverse health outcomes. Entire communities are affected, regardless of immigration status.

Emboldened further by the Trump administration’s increased support, ICE has scaled up its enforcement campaign. The agency has been accused of targeting immigrant rights organizers (which it has denied) and denying migrants in detention proper medical care. Where persecution has intensified, so too has resistance. When the news broke of family separations, parents occupied ICE offices with their children for “playdate protests” to highlight the cruelty of the policy. The protests quickly spread, with encampments outside of ICE offices across the country. As noted by movement journalist L.A. Kauffman in *Waging Nonviolence*, researchers at the Crowd Counting Consortium have tracked more than 20,000 separate demonstrations between January 2017 through May 2018, involving as many as 16 million participants. As Kauffman writes, “that’s more people protesting than at any time in U.S. history.”

So, as ICE stokes fear in immigrant communities, how can activists fight back?

1. Get educated.

There are lots of misconceptions about our immigration system. One pervasive myth is that the U.S. is deporting only people who have committed crimes, targeting threats to public safety. After Trump’s campaign promise to target so-called “bad hombres,” a record number of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record have been arrested.

The logic is circular: Crossing the border without documentation is designated as a federal crime put in place by lawmakers, preemptively criminalizing any immigrant residing in the U.S. without documentation. What this means is that it becomes a crime to enter the U.S. without the proper paperwork, allowing the administration to frame anyone it detains as a public safety risk. Combined, “illegal entry” and “illegal reentry” have become the most federally prosecuted offenses in the U.S. Faced with these charges, often unaware of their options, migrants are pressured to accept plea deals and waive their right to trial, according to the American Immigration Council. This conviction can later be used as the basis for future deportation proceedings.

It’s important to know the history because crossing the border was not always a crime. The original iteration of the policy we see today dates back to a 1929 law, that, according to University of California, Los Angeles, history professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez, was designed to criminalize Mexican agricultural workers and prevent nonwhite immigration.

Criminalizing the mere act of migration is the backbone of family separation: It seems the government can deport any undocumented immigrant it wants, then claim it has only pursued “criminals” and threats to public safety. This practice, coupled with America’s aggressive policing of communities of color, puts migrants in constant danger of deportation.

Another misconception held by many is that President Donald Trump is at the root of our immigration crisis. While Trump has certainly accelerated the targeting of immigrant families, the Democratic party of the past has often implemented some of the harshest anti-immigrant policies.

Tina Vasquez, senior reporter covering immigration at Rewire.News, broke it down for Teen Vogue, saying, “President [Bill] Clinton signed the 1996 immigration laws, which, among many other things, fast-tracked deportations, expanded the detention system, and criminalized a wide swath of immigrants.” She goes on to say that, “President Obama, like President Trump, fast-tracked the deportations of asylum seekers, fought to detain immigrant families indefinitely, and placed children and families in tent cities.”
Vasquez also mentions that even when President Obama rolled out DACA in 2012, [known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that deferred deportation proceedings for certain individuals brought to the U.S. as children], he still touted that his administration was “putting more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history,” as noted in his 2013 State of the Union speech.

2. Demand sanctuary policies in your city or town.

Sanctuary cities protect immigrants through policies like limiting collaboration with ICE and not asking for one’s immigration status. These policies are an important act of solidarity and keep immigrants out of the hands of an unjust system.

Tom K. Wong, a political scientist at the University of California San Diego, found that cities that resist cooperation with ICE are safer and have stronger economies. Wong states in a 2017 report, “By keeping out of federal immigration enforcement, sanctuary counties are keeping families together — and when households remain intact and individuals can continue contributing, this strengthens local economies.”

Meanwhile, in cities that fail to adopt these policies, a climate of fear prevents some immigrants from seeking out social services they’re legally entitled to, and pressures immigrant workers to accept unsafe working conditions. Fewer undocumented domestic violence victims report their abuse, and police in some jurisdictions say that a fear of deportation is to blame, The New York Times reports.

To help encourage the implementation of sanctuary policies in your town, meet with local officials and leaders and urge them to stand in solidarity with immigrants. But also consider how you might create sanctuary more broadly in the world around you.

Build community with immigrants. Write to people who are detained, like immigrants in detention who face severe isolation, to let them know they are not alone. Ask churches and local businesses to consider becoming sanctuary sites, where immigrants can take shelter in the event of a raid. If you’re a citizen, you can also put that privilege to use and get involved with accompaniment programs. By accompanying immigrants to their court cases, you not only provide moral support in a terrifying time but show the judge that the immigrant has community ties, which can create a delay in deportation through public pressure.

3. Hold ICE accountable for its practices.

Documenting encounters with immigration agents is usually legal, but to be safe, check your state’s regulations on recording and consent. ICE agents have been accused of employing violence, intimidation, and deception during raids, and filming them can help expose them and serve as evidence. Filming encounters with ICE provides an important line of defense against an agency that operates in the dark.

As Witness, an organization dedicated to documenting human rights abuses writes, “Filming encounters with Immigration and Customs Officials (ICE) can expose human rights abuses, deter violence, substantiate reports, and serve as evidence. But if the footage isn’t captured safely and ethically, it can put people at risk. Before filming an encounter, assess the security risks and inform the impacted person how/where you plan to use the footage, and ask for their consent. If there are any concerns about exposing their identity, consider taking written notes instead of using video.”

Corporations like Dell, Microsoft, and even some universities have or have had contracts with ICE, so boycotts are also an option. Public pressure works, too: Early this year, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo vowed to divest from the private prison industry. The move has serious implications for ICE operations: Geo Group and CoreCivic, the two largest private prison companies in America, detain an estimated 15,000 immigrants in America every day.

Another effective tactic is participating in nonviolent direct action. Protests, sit-ins, and occupying ICE offices are all tactics that highlight the injustices of our immigration system. Last year, Portland’s ICE office was temporarily shut down as protesters blocked the front entrance. Direct action means standing up vocally against injustice and forcing the debate onto the national stage.

4. Center black immigrants in your activism.

Black immigrants face the struggles of being undocumented and the added burden of navigating anti-blackness. They are consistently under-resourced and over-criminalized: Though only 7% of U.S. noncitizens are black, they make up a disproportionate 20% of immigrants facing deportation on criminal grounds, according to a 2016 report by the NYU Law Immigrant Rights Clinic. Furthermore, black immigrants may struggle to access legal assistance due to immigration being framed as a “Latino issue.”

Showing up in defense of immigrants and against ICE’s work means confronting anti-blackness in our movements and the world around us. It means questioning our own subconscious biases: In a world so shaped by racism and colorism, even the most well-intentioned activists can have a lot to unlearn; it means fighting against a criminal justice system that presumptively criminalizes black families; it means stepping back and learning from powerful activists who already doing the work, like the UndocuBlack Network, a coalition that highlights the disparities black immigrants face and shares resources with the community.

5. Organize!

Are you a designer? A writer? A social butterfly? Whatever your skill set, get involved in the movement against these practices! Young immigrants are paving the way through bold acts of resistance. Find an immigrant-led organization in your area, and reach out.

Tiffany Caban, public defender and candidate for Queens District Attorney, highlights the importance of getting involved. “Immigrant communities have been wrongfully targeted and criminalized,” she tells *Teen Vogue*. “We have to rebuild trust with these communities to protect families and people's ability to live stable lives because that is the key to public safety. When folks know where they are staying at night, know they can go to their job in the morning, know they can call someone for help and not risk deportation, that's when we have stable communities and real public safety for everyone.”

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0 # DongiC 2019-05-15 23:33
Nice job, Natascha. It is good to find out how one can cope with ICE, an organization which has too many fascist tendencies. I shall, indeed, follow some of the practices mentioned here. Plus, a few extra special ones.
 
 
+1 # RLF 2019-05-16 06:26
I'm really tired of hearing how we need a zillion immigrants in this country with a shrinking jobs market but hearing nothing about how we accommodate all of them. I believe in helping refugees but not all immigrants are refugees and the job I worked my way through college at (construction) is rarely ever available these days because of the number of immigrants waiting around to work cheap as hell. Where is the answer here to over population of this country? To housing on farm land near cities. To hospital visits by the poor who work for cheap and illegally and are thus uninsured? I need to see some more wholistic thinking on the left and the right here, not just more knee jerk horse shit! Bring on the knee jerk thumbs down!
 

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