By Matt France Macias
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Since that speech, President Trump promised a border wall, which is still a thing that he continues to fight for. Some members of Congress have opposed this wall, and in order to keep his promise of being tough on immigration true, he has devoted more funding to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), who in turn has been deporting and detaining record numbers of people, and some without base. These even include people who have worked for Trump in the past.
Detainment of Trump Employees
Zoltan Tamas, a Romanian born man, worked several positions for the Trump organization after his legal emigration to the United States in 2011. These positions ranged from a security guard on a Trump golf course to the family’s personal driver. After a vacation with his family to his home country in 2013, Tamas received a letter from ICE requesting him to visit the agency’s office to discuss his “inadmissibility” to the United States. His visit to their office was in June of 2018, and it resulted in his detention without reason. Since that visit, Zoltan has stayed in ICE custody, where not once has he been able to contact his wife and children. Zoltan’s story, unfortunately is not a unique one.
A Rapper Facing Deportation
ICE has created other more attention-grabbing arrests as well. On February 3 this year, well known rapper 21 Savage, whose real name is She’yaa Bin-Abraham Joseph, was arrested by the government agency a few days after performing a song containing lyrics against ICE’s “Zero Tolerance” family separation policy, who claims he was an English national who overstayed his visa. These claims are not wrong; however, the circumstances surrounding them are where his arrest and subsequent detention created controversy. Joseph came over to our country from England as a young teenager with his family, and his visa expired around a year later. As a minor, he couldn’t go out on his own to get a new visa. He didn’t even know how the process worked. Joseph grew up in Atlanta, a city he stays deeply rooted in today. Using his chart-topping success as a rapper, he has given back to his city in many different ways. Joseph has been running back-to-school drives in his community for the past three years. A few months ago, he started an organization to teach children financial literacy. Joseph even applied for a visa in 2017, but was arrested before he could complete the process. Arrests such as these have led Americans to question just how many of these arrests are truly warranted. Some even believe that certain arrests made by ICE were targeted.
Some of these arrests that some people claim to be targeted include multiple activists who have spoken and acted out against ICE. Claudio Rojas, a filmmaker and an undocumented immigrant himself, was arrested by ICE right before his film’s South Florida debut. This film, The Infiltrators, follows Rojas and another fellow activist after they deliberately get arrested and sent to a for profit detention center for immigrants, where the duo sought to expose wrongdoing. Rojas has been previously detained by the government agency prior to this incident as well. Rojas was sent to an immigration detention center along with his son, where he took place in a hunger strike that resulted in his release. However, he isn’t the only activist to be targeted like this. Maru Mora Villalpando, a Mexican National who has been living in Washington state for twenty two years, has helped publicize detainees’ hunger strikes and other protests within her home state. Last year, she received a letter from ICE warning her that she might be deported. The agency has said it is actively looking to deport her. Another activist that has been critical of ICE that has faced deportation is Jean Montrevil. Born in Haiti, Montrevil legally emigrated to the United States in 1986. He faced deportation in in 1994 due to drug possession charges. Since then, Montrevil has stayed clean and worked to help support his family. More recently, he has co-founded the New Sanctuary Coalition, an organization based in New York that helps immigrants and advocates for their rights. Montrevil was arrested by ICE and deported back to Haiti on January 16th. The organization’s other co-founder, Ravi Ragbir, was arrested and detained by ICE based on Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud charges that stemmed from the year 2000. Ragbir has lived in our country for two decades. Despite his detention, Ragbir currently holds the position of executive director at the New Sanctuary Coalition.
The alleged targeted arrests of prominent people is not the only thing ICE have been scrutinized for. One of the biggest black marks on ICE and the Trump Administration as a whole is the “Zero Tolerance” policy. The policy, put in place by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions last April, separated families of people who crossed the border illegally as well those who sought asylum. The separated families ended up in different ICE facilities, one for children and one for parents. Eventually, President Trump came forward and signed an executive order that ended the separation of families; however, the signing of this executive order, while a step in the right direction, didn’t solve everything. To this day, there are children who are still stuck in the ICE detention facilities while some of their parents have already been deported. The Department of Homeland Security and ICE has said about 2,800 children have been affected by this “Zero Tolerance” policy; however, this number could in fact be higher. The Trump Administration was ordered by the courts to take responsibility for the harm caused by the policy. Since the ruling, however, no plan has been put in place to reunite the families who were separated. The children affected by this policy often have issues even after they are released and reunited. Some videos of younger children who were reunited show that they don’t even recognize their own parents. These videos are just some examples of the psychological effects that the “Zero Tolerance” family separation policy has on children.
The purpose of ICE as an agency is simple: to stop threats from coming across our borders. However, in recent years, the definition of a “threat” has become more and more broad to the government agency. Between what can be construed by some people as targeted arrests, as well as the action of separating children from their families, confidence in the government institution has fallen to a new low. If the arrests and deportations mentioned above are indeed targeted, then they as well as ICE should be looked into. The separation of children and families was not something that ICE put in place on their own merits, it was a policy enacted by Jeff Sessions and enforced by ICE. Yes, the Obama Administration had a similar policy at the border for a period of time as well. However, two wrongs don’t make a right. As someone whose grandparents emigrated from Cuba to escape Castro’s dictatorial rule, I fear for what their situation might have been if they had tried to emigrate to our country today.
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