The People vs. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Image: AP

On Monday morning, Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents tried and failed to detain a man in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. According to reports from local news station WTVF, when the agents approached the man’s vehicle and attempted to block his exit, he remained inside his van along with his 12-year-old son. As the man and his son waited out the agents, who only had an administrative warrant and couldn’t remove him from the van, their neighbors showed up to deliver them food and water. After nearly four hours, according to WTVF, the neighbors then formed a human chain to shield the father and son from the agents, allowing them to run inside to safety. The agents reportedly left, and no arrests were made.

“There were two immigration officials sort of bullying a family inside of their own vehicle, telling them that they had an administrative warrant, which isn’t the same thing as a judicial warrant, and trying to harass them and fear them into coming out,” Daniel Ayoadeyoon, a local lawyer told WTVF. “They were saying, if you don’t come out, we’re going to arrest you, we’re going to arrest your 12-year-old son, and that’s just not legal, it’s not the right law.”

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Another neighbor on the scene offered this: “I know they’re gonna come back, and when they come back, we’re coming back.”

This kind of direct defiance in the face of the machinery of deportation is just one example in recent weeks of how individuals, families, and communities have come together to protect themselves, protect their neighbors, and fight back against ICE.

In New Jersey last week, a teenage girl responded to people she believed were ICE agents outside her home by telling them they couldn’t come inside and that she didn’t have to come outside. They tried to coax her out of her home, but she had seen a Know Your Rights post on Instagram and knew she didn’t have to comply.

“They said, ‘We need to talk to you, can you come outside, can you open the door?’ I said, ‘Do you have permission to come inside my house, do you have a paper?’” she told The New York Times. “They said, ‘We’re not trying to come inside your house, we just want to speak with you.’ And I said, ‘No I’m not coming outside.” More agents returned a few hours later, she said, but her family remained inside. Eventually, they left.

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For some families, not opening the door when ICE comes knocking is enough to remain out of the agency’s grasp. But others cannot afford to stay home. “I can’t give myself the luxury of not going to work,” Edgar Barrera told the Los Angeles Times. “I have to pay rent. I have to pay for food... My mother is sick and needs medicine, and I’m the only person who can pay her medical bills.” Some community organizers in Latinx neighborhoods, like Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, have started scanning their communities for ICE officers. In 2017, United We Dream, in collaboration with the design agency Huge, developed Notifica for this exact purpose, an app that lets users alert a group of people about ICE raids, should they see something.

“We want to keep the neighborhood informed of everything, so we have people who are U.S. citizens, like myself, roaming the streets and spreading information that can help our community,” organizer Claudia Galicia also told the paper.

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In New York in March, an immigrant rights activist named Bryan MacCormack was filmed refusing to open his door to an ICE officer with an administrative warrant. MacCormack, who is the head of the Columbia County Sanctuary Movement and had accompanied two undocumented community members to a court hearing, was aware that he might be pulled over and was prepared for it.

When the ICE officer attempted to make the arrest, MacCormack rightly informed him that he didn’t have a judicial warrant.

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“Yes they are, sir, warrant of arrest of alien,” the officer responded.

“Yeah, warrant of arrest of... alien, not signed by a judge,” MacCormack said. “It’s not a judicial warrant. I have no obligation to oblige by that warrant.”

Across the country, workers, unions, and activists are also participating in these kinds of direct interventions.

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When Trump announced raids earlier this month, several hotel chains, including the Marriott, put out statements saying they did not want their hotels to be used to detain people, since ICE sometimes temporarily detains people in their custody in hotel rooms as a stopping point on the way to deportation or a government detention facility. The response from the hotel chains was due, in large part, to the industry unions that have called out hotels for cooperating with ICE. “Hotels are meant to welcome people from all over the world, not jail them,” D. Taylor, the head of the hotel workers union Unite Here, told NBC News.

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If you’d like more information about how to protect yourself or others, you can learn more about your rights during ICE encounters here and here.

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