“If you’re in this country illegally and you committed a crime by being in this country, you should be uncomfortable, you should look over your shoulder. You need to be worried. No population is off the table.”
Those were the words of Thomas Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), during a congressional hearing on June 13, 2017, in which the agency requested a $1.2 billion dollar increase to its budget. In his testimony, Homan made clear that ICE is waging a broad campaign of fear designed to alienate, criminalize, and make immigrants feel as though they are not wanted in their own communities. This rhetoric reflects Donald Trump’s stated hostility toward immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrants and those with criminal convictions. It is also a manifestation of an increasingly aggressive immigration policing agency intent on carrying out this vision.
In this context, understanding basic constitutional rights has become important for many immigrants. Over the past few years, Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) has collected hundreds of reports of how ICE agents have used surveillance, force, intimidation and lies to locate and detain unsuspecting immigrants at homes, workplaces and in communities across the country. These tactics—outlined in “Defend Against ICE Raids and Community Arrests,” a toolkit by IDP and the Center for Constitutional Rights—are the foundation for how ICE conducts raids and tears at the fabric of communities.
To help immigrants, their loved ones and community allies, we have now collaborated on a series of videos produced by Newsweek on how to prepare for an ICE raid, including:
Figuring out if you are at risk of being targeted for an ICE arrest
Where ICE is arresting people and what might trigger an ICE arrest
How ICE tries to destabilize people to coerce entry into homes
Your rights if ICE approaches you at home, on the street or in a courthouse
How to prepare your documents, finances, and childcare in case of an ICE raid
Individuals at risk of deportation and communities looking to protect loved ones and neighbors can provide critical support by learning about a person’s rights when encountering ICE. Knowing one’s rights and having a plan does not guarantee that someone will avoid arrest, but can provide critical support in other ways—for example, it could help legally challenge an arrest; shield children from the direct trauma of a raid; support broader advocacy to stop the spread of militarization and aggressive policing; and affirm the strength of community connections.
The Trump administration has already taken significant action on the president’s plans to deport millions. ICE, for example, reported a 40% increase in arrests during Trump’s first 100 days compared to the same period in 2016. In the past few weeks, ICE has conducted several wide-scale raid operations in communities across the country—including 113 people in New Jersey, 188 people arrested in Southern California, 70 people in the Dallas and Oklahoma areas and an unknown number in Detroit.
Of great concern is the marked increase in community arrests—50% more than the first 100 days of last year. These arrests often rely on deception and disorientation, and frequently involve a team of heavily armed officers in tactical gear, but may also include undercover agents. They take place in the early morning hours at homes and on the street, or while people are at courthouses, work or in their car. They often happen in front of children and other vulnerable witnesses who are left traumatized and missing a loved one.
Under the guise of protecting “public safety,” ICE funnels immigrants into a system fueled by a history of discriminatory policing and harsh immigration laws passed in 1996 that severely limited legal avenues to defend against deportation. This unforgiving legal landscape and an increasingly hostile federal government are what have made many immigrants scared to take their children to school or to show up for work. ICE raids have destroyed and destabilized households; they have chilled community life and promoted distrust of governmental institutions in immigrant communities. Nonetheless, Thomas Homan has called for millions more in funds to triple the number of ICE agents and expand the deportation system to unprecedented scale.
The drive to continue increasing deportations makes the need for communities to understand their rights more urgent than ever. The growing system also makes effective emergency planning in the case of an ICE raid crucial.
As Khalil Cumberbatch, Manager of Trainings at JustLeadershipUSA, who was abruptly taken away from his family in an ICE home raid, said, “ICE capitalizes on the fact that those negatively impacted by these system and aren’t given all the information, resources, and tools that they need to push back. Knowing my rights would not have stopped my detention, but it would have allowed me to have a plan for my family.”
The information in these videos and the accompanying materials is part of the ongoing work to end the vilification of immigrants as well as to combat the aggressive and unnecessary disruption and destruction of millions of lives.
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