Civil dissent, outrage in response to ICE is needed

Ian Sims

In a four-day period last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 132 people in the city of Austin. Nationally, ICE arrests jumped from 110,568 to 143,470 between 2016 and 2017. This is one among many ICE-related problems that demand criticism. In response, more civil dissent — specifically from people who already possess the protections of citizenship — is necessary.

Recently, reports surfaced online that ICE raided nearly 100 7-Eleven stores in search of employees without documentation. Another video appeared online last month that showed ICE raiding a Greyhound bus, taking at least one woman into custody.

In December, Department of Homeland Security’s inspection of ICE facilities found problems with facility conditions, improper treatment of detainees and delayed medical care. Furthermore, ICE drastically underreported their arrests in Austin, reporting a number nearly three times less than reality.

As these events unfold, it is immensely important to monitor the activities of ICE and to be aware of any potential oversteps of power. Recently, immigrant rights groups have filed a lawsuit against ICE for allegedly targeting immigrant rights activists. If immigrant rights activists cannot speak out in their own defense without fear of deportation, it is up to U.S.-born citizens, who have protection from deportation, to help fill this role.

One must understand that people who immigrate to the United States are often simply trying to survive: Poverty and armed conflict are root causes of migration. People who immigrate are also less likely to commit crimes. Furthermore, one must understand that our immigration system is severely broken. It is shortsighted to ask “why didn’t they just become a citizen” when some visa categories have a several decades long wait time. Projects such as the Texan’s “Negotiating Dreams,” which highlight the humanity of undocumented people, are vital.

Not only are a greater number of protests necessary but also protests with more participants. A few hundred people is not enough of response to mass deportations. Protests upon protests with thousands of participants are crucial.

We have already seen that outrage can be effective. Overwhelming media responses to unjust ICE arrests, one a father whose son is battling leukemia, another a chemistry professor in the middle of his research, has resulted in them being allowed to stay in the United States for a longer period of time. This outrage should not be confined to people with special circumstances. It must be extended to the borderline humanitarian disaster that encompasses ICE’s current operations.

Texans responded to Senate Bill 4, which aimed to ban sanctuary cities, with a great number of protests at the State Capitol. I remember handing out pamphlets to people, informing them of the legal rights in case they ever were to come in contact with ICE. Boldly, educators in Austin handed out similar flyers to their students last year. More activity like this should occur.

In our polarized political climate, where hate crimes are on the rise, it can be incredibly easy to become accustomed to otherwise abnormal events. It is in this climate that I am afraid tragic events, such as unwarranted deportations, have the potential to exponentially increase. Therefore, we must continue to be vigilant, angry and, most importantly, engaged.

Sims is an international relations and global studies sophomore from Houston.