Waging War Against Immigrants; ICE, Trump, Shut It Down

immigrantsDozens of refugees have died in U.S. custody including multiple children. Photo: The Rainbow Times
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Trump Is After Most Immigrants, Just Not The Caucasian Ones

By: Nicole Lashomb*/Editor-in-Chief— 

Waging war against those most vulnerable and without a way to defend themselves is the most cowardly and despicable act one can do. But, that is exactly what the Trump administration and its minions have done repeatedly with countless marginalized groups. The immigrant community continues to be under relentless, pervasive and eminent attack. Trump loves to tout his faux successes and “strength” when all he has proven to be is a spineless, self-serving abuser that has weaseled his way into the most powerful position in the country in the worst reality show known to humankind where we all are a part of the cast. 

According to a NY Daily News report, “eight gay men and four transgender women are currently detained in the Otero County Processing Center, a private detention center operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC) in Chaparral, N.M. They arrived in the U.S. to seek asylum, fleeing persecution and death threats in their own country.”  

Since their legitimate and legally permissible arrival, the migrants have complained of severe mistreatment—including “verbal and sexual harassment, solitary confinement, and inadequate medical care—according to a  letter of complaint signed by representatives of three human rights organizations.” 

Due to discrimination against the LGBTQ community, often leading to death in some parts of the world, the asylum seekers exercised their right to come to this country to preserve their lives and the lives of their families. 

 “These are some of the most vulnerable people in the world; people who have fled the only place that they knew as their home because they couldn’t live there anymore and be safe,” said Kristin Greer Love, attorney, ACLU. 

That is not the only example of human rights violations taking place within the walls of detention centers, many of which have been called upon to shut down by human rights advocates and activists. 

According to the ACLU, the “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has detained and deported record numbers of people from the United States” utilizing “removal tactics” that void the right to a fair hearing in court, as the government rushes to judgment and tries to ram people through a rubber-stamp system that ignores individual circumstances,” its website read. 

Although the ACLU is one of many organizations working to hold ICE accountable for basic human rights violations, the violations are ongoing at rampant rates. 

“The Border Patrol and its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), operate in a vast zone stretching 100 miles from any land or sea border,” read the ACLU site. “This includes entire states such as Florida and Maine as well as almost all of the country’s top metropolitan areas. CBP’s militarization of the border region has produced rampant abuses ranging from racial profiling to excessive force.” 

And, excessive is an understatement. 

NBC News reported “24 immigrants have died in ICE custody during the Trump administration. At least four others, including Medina Leon, died shortly after being released from ICE custody. The tally does not include migrants, including five children, who have died in the custody of other federal agencies. As of early June, ICE was detaining more than 52,500 immigrants a day in a sprawling network of more than 200 detention centers across the country.” 

Everyday, I think of the next election cycle and look forward to when we will have the opportunity to vote Trump out of office. I have hope in a new administration to restore the human rights that have been stripped from us all, especially those most vulnerable. In the meantime, I urge all of us to be weary of being desensitized to the atrocities occurring in this nation against those who are not in power.  

In a recent report earlier this month by NBC news, members of Congress described the “indefensible” conditions immigrants were left in, in what many have described as concentration camps. 

 One of those Congress members was Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and what she learned directly from the immigrants was repulsive. 

“After I forced myself into a cell w/women & began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as ‘psychological warfare’—waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them wh*res, etc.,” she wrote on her Twitter account. “Tell me what about that is due to a “lack of funding?” 

In addition, multiple reports have found that migrants have been told to drink from the toilets when there was no water available. They’ve also not been provided soap, toothpaste or personal hygiene products. 

Another Congressman, Rep. Marc Veasey from Texas who visited the same detention center wrote on Twitter:

“We found children barely older than toddlers in cells; families that had been separated from one another; holding centers that were little more than animal sheds, with chain-link fences and pad-locks used to lock up men, women, and children,” he said of the conditions at ICE detention centers.

Yet, the reactions of social media users to stories like the one above, that should outrage all of us, received far fewer comments, likes, dislikes and engagement than stories that highlight positivity. I get it. We are all burnt out under this administration—or most of us likely feel that way.  

However, the heinous acts committed by the hands of our government at home and abroad is gut-wrenching and although it is not normalized by any means, some of us have started to tune it out. Part of that has to do with it all just being too much to process for some, and part of that is driven by ego-centrism. If it isn’t happening to us directly, then the impact is somehow lessened—but it shouldn’t be. Many feel powerless to combat such pervasive levels of oppression so the decision is to tune it out. Nonetheless, if we disengage and tune out the atrocities, we become complacent. Complacency then condones the actions.  

Also in attendance of the detention center tour was Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. We came today and we saw that the system is still broken, he said of the environment at the center as reported by NBC News. These are the conditions that have been created by the Trump administration. These are the inhumane conditions that folks are facing.   

Imagine this. The tour was set up for members of Congress to get a first-hand glimpse into what has been occurring to immigrants at these detention centers. The staff knew the nation’s leaders would be touring the facility, so they would have been on their best behavior. Can you imagine what the actual conditions are like when no one is watching?  

On July 2, I proudly took to the streets of Boston with hundreds of Jewish people and allies in “Never Again Para Nadie: Jews Against ICE Boston” to demand an end to ICE’s violence and inhumane practices right here in Massachusetts 

According to the organizers Facebook page, this action was created to say “Never Again, Para Nadie” (for no one.) “We mean that no one, no person or group, should experience the trauma of family separation, the violence of detention, the pain and deadliness of degradation and dehumanization, or genocide, the group’s Facebook page read.We demand dignity and permanent protection for all immigrants/migrants and safe pathways for those seeking refuge from places plagued by colonialism and violence.  

The truth is if we rise together in collective action and collective voices, it is powerful, even unstoppable if enough of us band together. Yes, fighting and demanding justice for humankind may take a toll but isn’t it all taking a toll anyway? 

If you are privileged according to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or country of origin, then that is all the more reason to face the injustices head on. Leverage the privilege you were given. 

 Like we chanted through the streets of Boston in peaceful protest of ICE’s inhumane practices, “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now. If we don’t get it? Shut it down.” 

The time is long past due … #closethecamps. 

* Nicole Lashomb is Editor-in-Chief of The Rainbow Times and Co-ED of Project Out, Inc. She holds an MBA from Marylhurst University and a BM from the esteemed Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam. Nicole can be reached at editor@therainbowtimesmass.com.

[This story was originally published in the July 4, 2019 issue of The Rainbow Times.]