When news first broke of the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which separated (mostly Central American) families at the border, calls to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) grew from a whisper to a roar across social media. That’s not to say that the Abolish ICE movement is new; immigration activists have called for the end of the 15-year-old agency far before Trump made his entry into politics. But now we’re seeing additional voices denounce ICE. Several politicians, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Deb Halaand – have built their campaign platforms around the dissolution of the firm. Though, as a 2018 Pew Research poll finds, public opinion of ICE is extremely divided, a majority of Democrats – 72 percent – overwhelmingly hold unfavorable views of the agency.
Since its inception, the agency has “wrongly identified at least 2,840 United States citizens as possibly eligible for deportation, and at least 214 of them were taken into custody for some period of time,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The government group has also used deceptive tactics to detain undocumented immigrants. While its US Border Patrol agents who separated families along the southern border, ICE has long drawn the ire of activists. Under Trump, ICE and its Enforcement and Removal Operations division – responsible for the deportation of undocumented immigrants already in the country – were given free reign to target a larger number of immigrants, including those who had not committed crimes.
Calls to reform ICE have been around since the agency’s inception, but as we continue to see these words pop up in our feeds, we wanted to learn more about what this truly means. Remezcla spoke to five young activists across the country about what Abolish ICE means to them.
Greisa Martínez Rosas, 29
“Enforcement is not new to our community — my father was deported when I was still in college and my sister was really young. The separation of families has been happening for years, but the unapologetic way in which it’s happening now is unprecedented. I remember being a young immigrant, being able to harbor dreams of being a permanent citizen, having protection from DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals], not having to worry about my family being torn apart. Now all of that has changed.
“Abolishing ICE is a long-term goal that’s part of the vision we have for our community. We want people to be able to live with dignity, thrive and be safe. We want families to be able to exist without the fear of being killed or separated.
“The short-term goal is for politicians to not fund a multibillion dollar industry that is profiting off of people of color and our detention. The litmus test is not whether these politicians are saying “Abolish ICE,” but whether they’re enabling Trump to meet his deportation goals by approving appropriations and budgets for DHS and ICE. If you’re continuing to give these agencies money, then you’re just as complicit.”
Antonio Alarcon, 24
“Over the last few years, we’ve seen ICE arresting people right and left. They say they’re only targeting criminals, but the second you cross the border, they treat you like one. It lets other people not question the narrative and treat us that way as well.
“What they don’t talk about, though, is how many of us were forced to cross for so many different reasons. One of those reasons is US intervention in Latin America. The US created conditions that we’re being forced to escape, and when we try to find a safe place to go, we’re treated like criminals.
“Now, I think more people are being made aware of what ICE really is. But if ICE is abolished, we need to work on finding a real solution for immigration reform. We need to address the people who have been here for 20 years, the people who are still waiting for their visas. It can’t be about numbers, it has to be about humanity, about the people who have sacrificed to make this country better.”
Jacqueline Ganoa, 18
“Ever since stories came out about camps of immigrant kids and families being separated, it started to feel close to home. I’m an immigrant; I come from an immigrant family. So it was devastating to see what was happening, because it could’ve easily happened to my family. It started making me scared, angry, and I just felt like enough was enough. This was happening to little kids and it wasn’t fair. They aren’t old enough to fight for themselves, so we should all be fighting for them.
“It’s time that we change things. If nothing is gets done, history will keep repeating itself. It’s 2018, and young people are the future. We’re so involved in social media that when we see something we don’t like, we will speak out.”
Israel Guerrero, 22
“Under the Obama administration, we saw the introduction of DACA, employment authorization and the ability to have social security, which gave us access to jobs and more financial freedom. There were still deportations going on in the background, it just wasn’t as visible. During the Trump era we’re in now, the advancements we’ve made and the protections we’ve had have slowly been diminished.
“I began to identify with the Abolish ICE movement my freshman year of college. I went to a protest at a detention center in Karnes, where there were a lot of human rights abuses going on that weren’t being addressed. People were living in inhumane conditions, families weren’t together. That was my first look at the profiling and discrimination that occurs because of peoples’ immigration status.
“The way the immigration system works right now, bodies are for profit and detention centers have quotas. Without ICE, I’d want to put those resources toward making the system less traumatic and violent toward immigrants.”
Jessica Sabogal, 31
“People come to America for a variety of reasons, but the US has deeply meddled with the economies of our motherlands. That, in turn, creates a need for us to find financial freedom elsewhere. Our migrant families then arrive to the US with the false hope of an American Dream to be part of a society that does not want us here — that would rather see our families separated.
“I made this [“Overthrow ICE”] illustration to show the link between whiteness and the great lengths people will go to maintain it. ICE exists because immigrants, regardless of their legal status, are a threat to whiteness, so a system was put in place to keep us out. ICE was allegedly designed to keep our country safe, but safe from who? And at what cost? This message needs to be shared to demand that folks begin to see ICE as an accomplice of white supremacy, not something designed to keep our borders intact and our kids protected from them.”