“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
This mantra is carved onto the Statue of Liberty. Liberty is thought to be one of the cornerstones of American philosophy. But who is really free in America? We take in the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, and utilize them for their work and taxes, but are they really free? Keeping up with current events in America, you’ll definitely see the acronym ICE over and over again, but you might not learn that the so-called “immigration crisis” plaguing America is not the immigrants coming in from Mexico. The immigration rate is lower than it was in 2009, and according to recent data most of the immigrants coming into the United States are college-educated and from Asia.
"Terrible things are happening outside... poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared." - Anne Frank, 1943
Recently, ICE executed the largest motion against undocumented immigrants in the organization’s history, separating 680 people from their families while they were at school and work. Many have attributed this quote to this event, and it’s not too far off the mark. People have been taken into concentration camps with horrible conditions; cells are filled five times over capacity, children are separated from families, and prisoners lack access to many basic necessities. Some children were even put into the hands of human traffickers because of the lack of background checks on ICE’s part. No matter who you are, you have the power to do something about this. As documented allies, in particular, we can make a huge difference for those without legal status.
Know Your Rights and the Rights of Others
When I first saw that ICE was trying to detain people using illegal warrants, I was disappointed, but not surprised. They rely on the fact that the people being arrested or bystanders will not know enough about the law to intervene. Of course, this is not in all cases, but it happens. Additionally, they may try to do things like enter a house they’re not allowed to, request information they’re not allowed to know with their level of authority, and more. Just because they are ICE officer s does not necessarily grant them the right to know your immigration status or your family’s, access to your house or property, or even the right to detain you or others. A full list of rights available to those being persecuted by ICE officers has been created by ACLU and can be found here. This unjustifiable, deliberate skirting around legality has made it much harder for undocumented immigrants to be treated fairly by laws that already specifically target them.
Make Their Presence Known
If you see something, say something! Though I personally have not seen any ICE agents, some of my friends live in New York and have posted about them. If you can, share a picture of them, making clear their location, who they are looking for, who they are, and what time you saw them. Whether you have a large or small followings, the act of posting may save someone who was going to be unlucky enough to cross paths with them. Additionally, ICE officers are not all overtly dressed as such—some are wearing normal clothes. These can be the most important ones to catch and share. They are able to get away with unjustifiable racial profiling and detainment of people this way by using surprise tactics on people heading to work or home in busy public transport centers.
Donate to or Help Organizations Fighting ICE
There are plenty of national organizations that are fighting for immigrant rights that you can support. There’s the American Immigration Council, United We Dream, The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights, and more that you can find listed here. If you don’t have the expendable income, there are plenty of ways you can get involved. It can be as simple as sharing their posts on social media or asking what positions and volunteer opportunities they have for someone who would like to help. Additionally, another option that may be just as effective, if not more, is donating to local organizations that fight for the right to immigration to the United States. In towns where there is a high immigrant population, this is extremely important. If you are an undocumented immigrant and need a service organization, you can search your location and this site will find ones nearby you.
Make Your Town a Sanctuary
Contact your town officials about making your town a sanctuary, or at least having some sanctuary sites in town. A sanctuary is a place where the town pledges to not do things like disclose people’s immigration status to ICE, not ask for one’s immigration status, and have limited cooperation with ICE. As Natascha Uhlmann writes in Teen Vogue, in sanctuary cities, the economy tends to be stronger than those that are not. Additionally, undocumented people in non-sanctuary cities live in fear of being deported, and thus oftentimes they do not use social services that they have the right to use, and are often restricted to working in unregulated places with unsafe conditions. You can also contact your Congress Representative and encourage or even demand them to stop funding ICE.
Use Your Voice and Actions
If you are an ally, you have the means to help out undocumented people during a raid and any other time. Share resources in person or online by printing out informative posters, printing out guides to what rights undocumented people have and putting them in public places, and if you belong to a religious or other organization you can urge them to offer sanctuary for those being persecuted by ICE officers. If you know anyone that’s undocumented and has a check-in with an immigration officer, you can accompany them to provide support and a supervisor of the officer’s actions. In a raid, if you speak the language of an undocumented person who may not speak English very well, you can tell them what rights they have and what they should and should not do. Many times, a linguistic barrier and fear can be unjustifiably extorted in order to detain them.
Hope for the Future
There’s power in numbers and community solidarity, which was shown when a group of people in Tennessee protected undocumented neighbors by making a human chain around their van for hours. Even if it’s on a small scale like sharing posts on Instagram or Facebook, we can make the change that will push officials to change at least how ICE operates. I know that it can be scary whether you’re someone who’s undocumented or an ally afraid to use their voice, but if we all stick together, the future can change. We all need to work together to end the way in which undocumented people have been dehumanized, mistreated, and separated from their families.