U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) escalated their efforts to round up and deport mothers, taxpayers, and other well-loved members of communities across the United States this weekend. A series of raids were run in states including California, Georgia, Kansas, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Over 150 immigrants were reportedly seized in California alone.
In Phoenix, Arizona, protesters tried to save a married mother of two U.S. citizens, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, from being deported away from her family. One of the protesters even chained himself to the van she was locked in, but she was still sent to her native Mexico after a routine check-in with ICE officials. Protesters in Arizona, like the Puente Movement, have nearly a decade of experience with invasive, cruel raids and are therefore better mobilized to respond to these threats than many other communities–and they still couldn’t prevent this family from being split up.
Speaking from Mexico, Garcia de Rayos said, “The truth is I was there [in the U.S.] for my children. For a better future. To work for them. And I don’t regret it, because I did it for love. I’m going to keep fighting so that they continue to study in their country, and so that their dreams become a reality.” If that quote didn’t already break both your heart and any dwindling faith in the U.S. immigration system, her 14-year-old daughter’s moving piece in Teen Vogue will.
Trump’s executive orders on January 26, 2017 greatly expanded the definition of “criminal” and prioritized the removal of undocumented immigrants, so it’s not hard to imagine what might be motivating these increased efforts on the part of ICE.
However, officials with ICE justified their actions in a press statement. “We made 161 arrests, and of those 161, 151 of those had prior criminal convictions,” said David Marin, an official with ICE in California. “The majority of them were felons and those felons which had prior convictions included sex offenses, domestic violence, assault, robbery and weapons violations, just to name a few.”
Marin also claimed that the raids had been in the planning process since weeks before Trump’s executive orders.
This stretches credulity a bit, but as covered in a recent Full Frontal with Samantha Bee segment, Obama was known as the “Deporter-in-Chief.” He oversaw the deportation of 2.5 million documented and undocumented immigrants over his two terms. While officially focusing on “criminal aliens,” his administration defined “criminal” to include non-violent and minor offenses.
So while it’s hard to believe that Trump’s executive orders didn’t at least encourage this behavior, these raids would hardly be out-of-character for the Obama-era ICE.
Whenever they were planned, these raids represent part of the horrific reality for immigrants in the United States. Stories like Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos’ are likely going to become more common during a Trump presidency, and as they do, I admit that I despair of convincing opponents of amnesty to change their minds. If that story isn’t enough to stir your compassion, what in the world would be?
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