ICE’s Immigrant Sweeps Are Suddenly Focusing on Those Without Criminal Histories
With one of the cornerstones of President Donald Trump’s campaign platform was the promise to crackdown on undocumented immigration, millions of individuals have been understandably on edge since his inauguration. And for good reason.
A report out of Austin, Texas, says an U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, sweep on Thursday ended with the arrests of five alleged undocumented immigrants. Activists in California say that on Thursday alone, ICE carried out raids in and around Los Angeles resulting in up to 100 people being detained.
Though ICE representatives claim these were merely routine sweeps, immigrant activists beg to differ.
Speaking to the Texas Observer, Grassroots Leadership’s Alejandro Caceres explains that over the past five years in the Austin area, ICE typically made at most one or two arrests in a single day.
Jorge-Mario Cabrera of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles also says the ICE’s Thursday sweeps in Southern California were unprecedented, refuting the agency’s claim that these raids were unremarkable.
Cabrera says “for someone to tell us this is normal is an understatement,” pointing out that his organization sees, on average, five or fewer arrests by ICE during a typical week.
California State Sen. Tony Mendoza released a statement following the sweeps expressing concern about ICE’s lack of transparency surrounding the recent raids. He writes that “we need urgent clarification from ICE on how many people were detained, if any have serious medical conditions, if they have had access to adequate legal counsel.”
Activists also allege that ICE agents have been detaining all residents present during their raids presumed to be undocumented – regardless of whether they or not they have been named for deportation.
Following word of the arrests an unknown number of protesters took to the streets in downtown Los Angeles to express their disapproval of the ICE sweeps.
Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos’ arrest by ICE agents in Arizona and subsequent deportation to Mexico has also sparked protest. Garica de Rayos, a mother of two American children, came to the United States when she was just 14. Since then she has stayed in the country as an undocumented immigrant. At one point she was found to be using a falsified Social Security Number and though this marked her for deportation, her circumstances meant ICE regarded her as a low priority target.
Wednesday Garcia de Rayos went for her eighth immigration check-in despite friends and family urging her not to. She insisted that after her 2008 arrest and subsequent court ordered regular check-ins, she only wanted to abide by the law to the best of her ability.
Activist Lucy Sandoval says Garcia de Rayos “wanted to confront this” and that her family “were hopeful that there would be some consciousness and some heart.” Unfortunately, that did not appear to be the case this time around.
Garcia de Rayos is not the only immigrant being suddenly separated from her family. Reyna Alvarado of Austin, whose husband was among those detained by ICE agents Thursday, publicly expressed fears regarding his safety, explaining that they, along with their daughter, came to the United State from Honduras a decade ago to flee violent gangsters who had been targeting members of her family.
It may be tempting to withhold sympathy for undocumented immigrants being deported from the United States, to accuse them of foolishly refusing to jump through the bureaucratic hoops.
While many may be conscious of their undocumented status, a number, including some detained in this week’s ICE sweeps, had applied for refugee status, were denied it but were never properly informed of this outcome. For these people, their arrests by ICE came as a shock.
Those being filed into the ICE’s privately operated detention centers are real people being torn from their very real families. These are individuals who did not come to the United States to freeload on social welfare programs. And the vast majority do not come to commit crimes.
In fact, immigrants, both documented and undocumented, have been found to pay more taxes than what they benefit from and, contrary to a persistent belief, immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.
Whether undocumented immigrants with a criminal history (particularly a violent one) should face deportation is not the issue here. Rather, it is whether, on the one hand, it is appropriate to use taxpayer money and ICE resources to focus on deportation of individuals who pose no threat; on the other, if it is humane to lump 11 million people residing in the United States into the same category – even at the cost of endangering lives and dividing loving families.
Photo Credit: ICE / Wikimedia Commons