The problem is bigger than ICE

As amazing as it is to see #AbolishICE and “Abolish ICE” signs at protests — and even to hear members of Congress echo the call — our problem is more than abolishing this agency. ICE — the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — IS cruel and inhumane. It is the instrument that carries out decades of cruel and inhumane policies forged under successive administrations and by Congress (and it actually consists of two subagencies: Homeland Security Investigations, and Enforcement and Removals Operations). Established under the post-9/11 Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ICE — and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are authorized and heavily funded to do the dirty work of implementing policy based on the criminalization of undocumented immigration.

ICE could be abolished — but another agency under another name could take its place and do the same thing — without a change in the policy and laws. For more than 30 years, a long list of laws have contributed to the criminalization of undocumented immigrants, whether they have lived and worked in the U.S. for many years, or if they are now attempting to enter as border crossers and asylum seekers. From the criminalization of undocumented work under IRCA in 1986, through an escalation of immigrant criminalization post-9/11, to the criminal prosecution of border crossers under Operation Streamline — these policies have separated families, contributed to migrant deaths at the border, and have heightened a racist, hate-filled and divisive narrative now led by no less than the White House.

Members of both parties — in the White House and in Congress — have promoted and endorsed this immigration enforcement program. Every “comprehensive immigration reform” proposal that came up in Congress included further support for this immigration enforcement regime. Typically, concerns for human rights abuses and violations were “thrown under the bus” during the business of “trade-offs” for potential “positive” reforms. And we have continued to see this trade-off scenario presented in recent months. Will Congressional members now voicing criticism of ICE stick to their positions down the road?

During the Obama period, NNIRR wrote in the report, “Injustice for All: The Rise of the U.S. Policing Regime” about the dangerous consolidation of the U.S. “immigration policing regime” that had evolved post-9/11 — a marriage of racist, punitive, inhumane laws, and a comprehensive infrastructure. The continued criminalization of immigration, arrests, detentions and deportations — including of asylum seekers — is purposeful and is an extension of this monstrous system. Clearly, babies and children are not exempt from this cruelty. (Read the Executive Summary of Injustice for All.)

Under DHS, immigrants are identified as a threat to national security and they are subject to all of the tools of surveillance, profiling and intrusive policing within this massive infrastructure. Access to due process, to justice is not in the DHS vocabulary.

This is an important moment to expand a movement for immigration justice and for the human rights of all migrants, regardless of immigration status. All around the country, momentum to limit ICE’s reach had been growing, especially evident in the creation of “sanctuary” cities and even sanctuary school districts. And nationally, many have rallied behind the campaign to #DefundHate, to undercut the billions of taxdollars that support the repressive enforcement machinery and personnel.  (See below for more information on #DefundHate)

Read the blog, “It’s Time to Decriminalize Immigration” to better understand the laws and policies behind ICE and the current enforcement practices. And this recent CNN interview with Boston College Law School professor Kari Hong provides a good background to current enforcement policies. 

Standing Up for ALL FamiliesTrump’s executive order on the separation of immigrant families came about because of the visible outrage over the Administration’s cruel and unjust policies and the blatant exposure of its inhumanity and immorality. The order also revealed just how callous Trump continues to be: the order not only failed to provide any commitment to reunite children with their parents, but it promoted an expansion of family detention, potentially indefinitely. When reunited, the families will remain together — in detention.

Hundreds of protests throughout the country this past week continued to draw people of all ages and backgrounds. Below, left, East Harlem family members with Movement for Justice in El Barrio, a member of NNIRR, rallied in protest of the Administration and in solidarity with the separated children at the Cayuga Centers, one of the sites in New York where children have been shipped from the Texas border. To the right, youth members of Filipino Advocates for Justice joined the June 30 protest at the West County Detention facility in Richmond, CA.








Officials are now running DNA checks on the separated children — so, they say, they can ensure matches with parents. But it is also apparent that their record-keeping is a mess; parents reportedly received no paper work when their children were taken away from them. Advocates have raised numerous problems with the the testing, including the potential use of DNA test results for future tracking purposes beyond reunification of families.

The children are still being held hostage to the Administration’s “zero tolerance” strategy, despite a June 26 court order. Officials had told parents that kids would only be returned to them following resolution of the parent’s cases — unless the parents decided to “voluntarily” depart or withdraw their asylum claims. 

California Judge Dana Sabraw has ordered the Administration to reunite the families within 30 days, and put a halt to any continued separation of families. The Administration recently said they are no longer separating families and that they will meet the reunification deadline. Officials now say there are “under 3,000” children who were separated from their parents, including about 100 under the age of five.

The ruling specifically called for the reunification of children 5 and under with their parents within 14 days (July 10) but even that is 14 days too long for babies, toddlers and small children — some who believe their parents have abandoned them — who have already been separated from their parents for many days and weeks. Reports are now circulating that DHS will request an extension of the deadlines to reunite the families.

And by the way–once the families have been reunited, release them from detention!

The Muslim Ban

The Supreme Court ruling on the Muslim Ban supported Trump’s promise to block any Muslim from entering the U.S. The Muslim Ban, revised to avoid the constitutional challenges of previous versions, will reinforce religious and ethnic discrimination and will add to painful family separations among immigrant and refugee communities. Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center speaking at a press briefing in San Francisco, commented,

“We understand this as an extension of war, as an extension of racism…we have the freedom to move, the freedom to stay. This just doesn’t continue in the courts, it continues in the streets.”#DefundHateAs members of Detention Watch Network, we are part of a national grassroots movement to defund the immigration enforcement apparatus — funding, approved by Congress, is obviously a critical target towards the dismantling of this cruel and punitive enforcement system. But it is only part of the battle ahead, and without a doubt, we will need a multi-pronged strategy at numerous levels to grow our movement and build power. #DefundHate provides us with a great tool to raise awareness, expand the movement, and bring elected officials to account for their role in supporting–or defeating–a hateful agenda. We’ll keep you posted. Click here to find out more information about the #DefundHate initiative.

#NoBanNoWall   #LoveKnowsNoBorders    #EndDetention   #RightToAsylum   #DefundHate

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