Disrupting ICE’s Theater of Cruelty

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 19: Protesters hold signs as they block Sansome Street during a demonstration outside of the San Francisco office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on June 19, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration outside of the ICE offices in San Francisco against the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy to separate immigrant families at the border. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Nancy K

As the Trump Administration continues its highly publicized and ritualized effort to round up immigrant families for deportation, we need to stand in solidarity with those targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). To that end, NYC-DSA Immigrant Justice Working Group, the Immigrant Defense Project, and the Lower Eastside Girls Club are hosting a Know Your Rights Training focused on countering ICE raids on Tuesday, August 6 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Lower Eastside Girls Club at 402 East 8th Street in Manhattan. The training is free and open to all. (Please RSVP to nkbookgroup@gmail.com.)

There are over eleven million undocumented immigrants in the United States. In New York City alone, there are at least 500,000 undocumented residents, all of who feel endangered when Trump announces impending ICE actions. It is clear that these round-ups are a theater of cruelty intended to satisfy Trump’s racist base and to terrorize millions of immigrants. 

 In New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio and Commissioner of Immigration Affairs Bitta Mostofi have said that city officials and the NYPD will not cooperate with ICE. “In the face of heartless raids that would tear families apart, we remain steadfast in our commitment to support and defend immigrant communities,” Mostofi said. But belying this “sanctuary city” rhetoric, De Blasio announced in May that the city was expanding the list of criminal offenses that trigger cooperation with ICE.

Thanks to organizing and outreach by local immigrants rights groups, including the New York Immigration Coalition, New Sanctuary Coalition, Immigrant Defense Project, and Make the Road New York, at least eight arrests were thwarted in New York City between July 14 and 17. ICE attempted to gain entry to homes without judicial warrants, but people refused to open their doors. ICE uses deceptive tactics to make arrests, pretending to have judicial warrants, posing as NYPD officers, and sometimes even going so far as setting up fake accounts on dating sites to lure people to public meeting places. Many immigrant families are terrified to leave their homes because ICE may be waiting outside a court, their kids’ schools, or at their places of employment.

I’ve been working with a family in Brooklyn for sixteen months as a volunteer with the New Sanctuary Coalition. When the mother of the family heard about the impending raids, she called me and said, “We can’t sleep, we can’t eat, we can’t leave our house. The older kids are scared, and the little one is crying even though she doesn’t know what’s going on. Are they coming to get us on Sunday?” Newspapers had reported that people on the initial list of 2,000 were those who had final removal orders and who had not appeared for a scheduled meeting with ICE. I told her, “There are one million people with final removal orders, and you are not anywhere near the top of the list.”

The best defense my friends have against these cruel policies is being part of a community network that will mobilize around them when ICE knocks on their door. In New York City, there was a solidarity rally in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and a Lights of Liberty vigil against the concentration camps in Foley Square, which many DSA members joined. The new Never Again Is Now Action coordinated over a dozen disruptive direct actions outside ICE offices or detentions centers in cities around the country.

Natalia Renta and Genia Blaser, staff attorneys at the Immigrant Defense Project, will lead the August 6 Know Your Rights training. The training will cover what you should you do if ICE knocks on your door, how you can tell the difference between the police and ICE, and what you can do if you witness an ICE raid or arrest. If you are unable to attend the training, you can find Know Your Rights flyers, posters and booklets on immigration rights in many languages at immdefense.org/raids. IDP’s ICEWatch map has over 1,000 reports of ICE raids, and a report on some of their most common ruses and tactics.

The NYC-DSA Immigrant Justice Working Group (IJWG) has been involved with the ICE Out of Courts New York State Campaign, which seeks to end ICE’s predatory practice of detaining immigrants as they appear for hearings at New York State courts, a practice that has increased by 1700% under the Trump Administration. The IJWG has also been active in the #NoTechForICE campaign, joining hundreds of protestors outside and inside Amazon’s Web Services Summit at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on July 11. In addition to the August 6 training, the IJWG is planning a full day of trainings and workshops for later in the fall. 

In advance of the July 14 raids, Luigi, a member of the IJWG and an immigrant himself, memorized emergency phone numbers, left written instructions for friends, and talked with his co-workers about what to do in case he was detained. He said, “One can have the best training to know your rights, but the key to your rights is the solidarity beyond the immigrant community. Last week it was encouraging to see all the protests that happened in many states. That is our main force: solidarity and action.” 


Nancy K is a member of NYC-DSA’s Immigration Justice Working Group and a volunteer with the New Sanctuary Coalition’s Pro Se Clinic and Accompaniment Program.  

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