ICE deporting activists not because of legal status, but due to political work

In the past month, at least four prominent undocumented immigrant activists and community leaders have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The timing of these arrests is no coincidence: this is a strategic and retaliatory move by the Trump administration meant to silence movement leaders and dissuade others from engaging in political work.

Last Thursday, ICE detained Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, during a routine check-in. A few days later, Jean Montrevil, the organization’s co-founder, was deported to his home country of Haiti. Even more recently, ICE detained Eliseo Jurado, whose wife Ingrid Latorre has taken sanctuary in a Colorado church. You may have also heard of Maru Mora-Villalpando, an activist who heads Northwest Detention Center Resistance (NWDCR), an undocumented-led movement that aims to dismantle the deportation and detention machine. In December, Villalpando received a notice to appear in immigration court, where she later received a deportation order. Villalpando says she is being targeted by ICE not because of her “immigration status, but [because they're] against my political work.”

Since Trump’s election and inauguration, immigrants have mobilized in response to this administration’s attacks on our welfare and wellbeing. The number of sanctuary churches has doubled in the past year, with colleges and universities, restaurants and businesses, and cities and states also declaring themselves safe spaces for migrants. Rapid response teams and community defense groups formed to serve as first-responders in cases of illegal and inhumane immigration enforcement activities. Since September, DREAMers have lobbied and fought for a path to citizenship, refusing to accept the rescission of the program that protected them from deportation. Targeting these activists is a way to repress their movements and demobilize migrant communities, yet organizers insist they will not be silenced.

Asked by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman if she sees a connection between her case and those of Ragbir and Montrevil, Villalpando responsed, “Absolutely, absolutely. We believe this is a clear targeting of people that have dared to not only question the system, but to fight the system, that we are outspoken, that we are public about it, that we’re not afraid. And it’s obviously clear that they’re going after us right now.” There is no doubt about it: targeting immigrant activists is a tool to silence political opponents and undermine pro-immigrant movements. At the same time, it’s important to remember the U.S. government has a long history of targeting activists and that this strategy is usually reserved for organizers and communities of color. In 1927, Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born black nationalist and the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) was deported by the U.S. government on falsified mail fraud charges. The FBI targeted Garvey through its COINTELPRO program, which also surveilled and monitored Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Panther Party, and Puerto Rican independence groups like the Young Lords. Activists who refuse to say silent in the face of oppression are a threat to this country’s very foundation. This is why they’re targeted.

This Friday, a coalition of immigrant rights organizations is hosting a demonstration in support of the detained activists in Washington, D.C. The event’s Facebook page reminds us “retaliation is a core tactic of the racist Trump administration that has suppressed dissent and political free speech since his inauguration.”

Immigrants are not taking these attacks sitting down, but rather are mobilizing to show Trump that we will not be silenced. Join us.

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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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