The Good, the Bad, and the Action
Keeping up with the constantly changing U.S. immigration landscape is exhausting. For me, it is worth it when I run across stories like the one in Tennessee on July 22, 2019. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers attempted to detain a man and his 12-year-old son in Nashville, TN. When community police attempt to arrest someone in their home or car, they have to have a warrant or order signed by a judge or magistrate or probable cause. ICE agents often use administrative orders issued by ICE agents without any judicial review. These “orders” will allow an ICE agent to pick someone up off the street but does not allow them to forcibly enter a private car or home the way a judicial order would. That was the situation in Nashville and the man and his son wisely remained in their vehicle, although blocked in their driveway by the pick-up truck ICE was driving. The scene the ICE agents were making outside of the vehicle, threatening the man and his son drew the attention of neighbors. The neighbors, who knew the family who had lived there for fourteen years, responded to ICE’s intimidation tactics by creating a human chain around the man’s vehicle to protect him and his son. Other neighbors brought food, water, and gas so the air-conditioning could keep running during the four-hour standoff. Local police were called by ICE but when they arrived refused to assist in detaining the man and stood at a distance, ready to protect the peace if necessary. ICE eventually left with no one harmed.
A neighbor, Angela glass said, "They don’t bother anybody. Our kids play with their kids. It’s just one big community. And we don’t want to see anything happen to them," Glass said. "They’re good people. They’ve been here 14 years, leave them alone. To me, they’re considered Americans.” I’ve been flying high on this story for two weeks now. What is most inspiring to me is that this was not a pre-planned organized act of resistance. It was spontaneous. The neighbors saw an evil being done and said, “not today, Satan.” Then they used their privilege as white Americans to stand between that evil and their neighbors. These are the walls we want—human walls protecting the vulnerable from the bullies.
There are plenty of bullies out there operating in the wide open. On August 7, 2019, ICE carried out massive raids in the Jackson, Mississippi area covering seven food-processing plants. 680 people were rounded up by 600 ICE agents who surrounded the properties like a wartime ambush. These people were walked out of their workplace in zip-ties, not knowing what kind of horrors faced them. 300 people remain in custody while hundreds more have been given court dates but were eventually released.
Aside from the obvious nightmare of our government storming a workplace and rounding people up into government custody in a system already overcrowded and unable to safely function, there are two other outrages in this scenario. The first is that although this raid was planned far in advance as evidenced by the unprecedented number of ICE agents flown into the area, there were no social service organizations involved. Many if not most of the people detained in the raids were parents. No effort was made to have increased social workers in the communities to ensure the children were cared for. The ICE quote, “we are… not a social services agency.” No, you sure aren’t, but you could have called one.
The other outrage, and the one that highlights the blatant racism of this raid, is that the owners of the plants—the people who hired and have been profiting from the work of these people—were not detained. They are unlikely to be prosecuted at all. It’s hard to prosecute employers who will just say they had no idea that the worker was undocumented, that they gave false information. But there is no way there are 680 employees who gave false information and a company has no idea. It also doesn’t rally a racist base to have a couple white men arrested and prosecuted but it sure gets bigots excited to see hard-working brown people ripped from their lives.
I’m hoping that if you’ve read this far that you are now inspired and mad. Here are ways that you can help to push back against the inhumane immigration campaign of the U.S. federal government.
1. Volunteer: this is always my number one suggestion because I find it so fulfilling. That being said, there are helpful ways to volunteer and nuisance ways to volunteer. Find an organization that knows how to make the most of your time. The organization that I think uses volunteers the best is the Dilley Pro Bono project. They have three ways to volunteer: on the ground in Dilley, TX at a family detention center assisting mothers with their legal cases including prepping for their asylum interviews, serving as a translator either on the ground in Dilley or remotely by phone, and remote data entry. All big cities and often small towns have great community organizations that could use the support. Reach out and ask them how you can give them your time.
2. Donate: This is a second choice way to help for me because it’s less involved but there are some great organizations that need your help to keep running. The principles of effective altruism say that sometimes the best way to help is by excelling at your field so you can make more money to donate. If that is your situation please consider donating to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) in Texas providing legal services to immigrants or the New Sanctuary Movement in Pennsylvania which is an immigrant run organization providing Sanctuary in churches, accompaniment in the courts, and organizing long-term campaigns for immigrant rights.
3. Write: Finally, everyone can and should be sharing their views on the current state of affairs. We know from history that the Holocaust was able to happen because citizens stayed quiet even when they were horrified. Our voice is a powerful tool and for those of us with more privilege and protection it is our moral obligation to use it. I recommend writing to your local representatives—mayor, councilperson, governor, congressperson, senator—about your position on immigration and what you want them to do about it. Do you want them to sign a bill providing licenses to immigrants? Do you want them to publicly call out these atrocities by naming them as concentration camps? Do you want them to shut down a detention center in your area? Let them know. They work for you.
However you choose to act, know that every person who joins in the resistance against the devaluing of entire groups of people is making a difference. It is not one loud voice that sparks a revolution but a million voices repeating the demands of the people.
Article by Claire Ryder
VERVE Operative USA & Humanitarian Activist