Four Things You Should Know About Immigration Raids

Almost 700 undocumented people have been detained over the past few days between workplace and neighborhood raids in at least 11 states. As we figure out how to resist Trump’s regime of terror, here are four important things to keep in mind:

Mass raids and deportations are not new. Barack Obama deported 2.5 million immigrants, more people than any U.S. president before him. And while Obama’s administration significantly increased border militarization, the mass incarceration of mothers and their children, and raids targeting Central American refugees, the use of workplace and neighborhood raids goes even further back. Under George W. Bush, immigration raids were the centerpiece of immigration enforcement. These were often high-profile operations involving multiple police departments and SWAT teams meant to traumatize and terrorize immigrant communities. As Vox reports, Donald Trump’s deportation machine was already in place. In recognizing this renewed violence, let’s not erase past sins.

None of us are safe. The discourse around immigration enforcement makes it seem as if raids are set up to target the “bad” guys. While ICE claims 75 percent of immigrants detained in the last week had “criminal” records, keep in mind that Trump broadened the scope of who the Department of Homeland Security can target by including those with minor offenses (such as a broken taillight) or those with no convictions at all. Respectability politics makes it seem as if “good” immigrants are protected from raids and deportation. But, when ICE comes knocking, they won’t consider our college degrees documentation. Being “respectable” won’t stop them from rounding us up. Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was deported in front of her U.S. citizen children. Daniel Ramirez, a DACA recipient with a valid work permit, was also detained by ICE this week. In the eyes of the state, immigrants are always already criminal. Being perceived as one of the “good” immigrants won’t save us. So let’s not create false binaries that treat some of us as disposable.

Raids create an environment of fear for all immigrants. Guadalupe’s deportation and Daniel’s detention send a message to immigrants: all of us are targets for deportation. Any day in this country could be our last, making immigrants afraid to go to work and school, drive long distances and take vacations, or go to an airport or DMV. Raids work to remind immigrants that we are never safe. Not even in our own homes. The fact that ICE agents are detaining people in plain view of school buses shows that not even children are off limits. Let me be clear: Trump’s strategy depends on the terrorization of entire communities. 

Immigrants are creative and resourceful AF. Despite these challenges, immigrants have never been ones to back down from a fight. Over time, we’ve created resources and developed strategies to prepare for the worst and care for one another. Local radio stations regularly announce police checkpoints, #MigraWatch hotlines warn us if there’s been a raid nearby, community defense groups inform immigrants of our rights, and rapid response teams accompany people to work and put their bodies on the line to protect immigrants from ICE. The “Day Without Immigrants” movement is spreading across the country—in fact, today is the national day of action. The Sanctuary Movement is growing, with restaurants, businesses, colleges, and churches taking on the task of sheltering and defending immigrants. As hard as life has been for those of us sin papeles, we have always found ways to creatively resist and thrive in the face of those who threaten our existence.         

If you’re new to the struggle for immigrant rights, I hope you will plug into efforts and movements in your community. You are needed. We welcome you.  

Durham, NC

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

Barbara is a doctoral student at The University of North Carolina interested in im/migration and migrant activism and organizing.

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