The news of an ICE immigration raid is always devastating. The ICE raid in Ellensburg, WA, was a crushing and traumatic blow to the families of those arrested and their co-workers, forcing the separation of families and intimidating the community.
However, the ICE raid against the Ellensburg community is just the tip of the iceberg of immigration policing.
On Thursday, January 20, ICE agents stormed into local businesses and homes in Ellensburg, Washington and arrested 30 persons, for using false documents to work, among other charges. The ICE raid did exactly what immigration policing is meant to do:
Relatives, neighbors and co-workers of those arrested were terrorized and many reported going into hiding.
The ICE raid also sent the community into a tailspin; but community members and groups across the region took action to expose the impacts.
College Town, Community of Communities
Described by the media as a small college town, Ellensburg is midway between Seattle and eastern Washington state, nestled in a valley created by the slopes of Northwest mountains.
Ellensburg is also surrounded by prime farm land. Ellensburg’s local businesses and workers service a mainly university community, with restaurants and other shops. But not everyone is at the university, studying, teaching, researching or administrating. Ellensburg is home to more than a college. There are food service workers, janitors, mechanics, clerks, waiters and waitresses and farm workers. Many of these jobs are held by “immigrants,” which usually means Mexicans, Mexican Americans and other Latinos and people of color, citizens and non-citizens.
Ellensburg is also the gateway into eastern Washington state, also known for its rich farmland that stretches from Yakima to Harrah, Toppenish, White Swan, Wapato, Granger, Grandview, Sunnyside, Euphrates, Pasco and the Tr-Cities area. Eastern Washington’s rich soil has been created over thousands of years from close by volcanoes. The last major eruption took place back in May 1980, whenMt. St. Helens exploded, sending volcanic ash rich in nutrients streaming into the valleys. The other volcano, immigrant labor, has also made eastern Washington’s farm lands and their corporate and local owners, rich.
ICE Raids Destabilize Communities and the Economy
Right after the news of the raid erupted, Ellensburg community members and rights groups mobilized, held meetings and demanded answers and accountability. The fight to to stop ICE — or at least push back — has only begun. Yet there is a deep challenge whenever there is an ICE raid.
ICE raids like the one that just took place in Ellensburg are the exception, not the rule. If ICE arrested 30 workers, setting in motion their jailing and deportation, then imagine what it took to arrest, jail and eventually deport some 393,000 persons in fiscal year 2010?
According to NNIRR’s on-going tracking and documentation of immigration policing abuses, detentions and deportations, in the last three fiscal years, ICE used Ellensburg-style raids to deport less than two percent of all those deported.
Deport Everyone Who Can Be Deported
Everyday the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deports about 1200 persons from the U.S. interior. If these thirty were part of this daily, monstrous figure, how were the other 1170 detained, jailed and deported?
During the Bush Administration’s years (2000-2008), and bleeding into the Obama Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and Operation Endgame, its initial plan were created in 2003 and implemented. Endgame is a ten-year plan set to end in 2012 with the central goal of creating the policing and staffing, policies and jails to deport everyone who can be deported. Right now DHS is working off a four-year bridge plan that sketches out the transition to Endgame’s next move.
Through Endgame and other legislative means, the U.S. government has doubled the number of Border Patrol agents (during Bush’s regime) and almost tripling the number of interior ICE police. DHS has increased exclusive jail-bed space for immigrants to the tune of almost 40,000 per day. DHS has also waived laws and environmental and labor protection regulations to implement the militarization of immigration control and border communities, with regard for the health and well-being of communities and the natural world. By early 2010, DHS had already build more than 600 miles border walls and other types of military equipment and strategy to detect movement on the border.
The momentum and policies for further integrating interior and border policing of migrants continues growing at alarming levels. How did we get this point of criminalizing “immigrants,” where SB-1070 laws and ordinances across the country, in tandem with federal policies for immigration police collaboration, being implemented in county after county, dominate the political agendas of dozens of states and other localities?
Immigration Police Collaboration Is Killing Our Constitution
Immigrant rights and other civil rights and liberties organizations opposed immigration policing and collaboration in any form because they undermine community safety and erode Constitutional protections. This fight has continued taking the front-line as immigration policing continues spiraling out of control. Legislators who are building their power on an anti-immigrant agenda and sentiment have used this controversy to attack on the 14th Amendment.
In 2003, Congressmember Charles Norwood introduced the Clear Law Enforcement Alien Removal Act (CLEAR) that sought to deputize ALL police to enforce immigration laws. Although the CLEAR Act didn’t make it pass the House of Representatives, this created pressure on the Administration to become more creative in unconstitutionally using local police to do the dirty work of immigration control.
During 2001-2003, ICE also began more successfully implementing 287(g) agreements with local and state police. Florida was one of the first states to sign a 287(g) agreement with ICE, in the aftermath of 9/11. Named after a provision in the 1996 immigration law, 287(g) allows ICE to train and supervise units of state and local police to work with their field agents to go after persons for immigration status violations.
In 2008, the DHS, under President Bush, started the “Secure Communities” program that allows police to send the fingerprints of persons they arrest to be checked against a DHS immigration database. If the fingerprints match with those in the DHS database, ICE will quickly order local police to hold the person until ICE can pick them up.
No charges, no lawyer, no court and the person jailed and not convicted of anything will automatically continue in jail until they are turned over to ICE for deportation?
As part of Endgame, the U.S. government plans to have “Secure Communities” agreements in every county of the U.S. by the end of 2012.
So how are the other 98% being arrested, jailed and deported?
Through E-verify (employer sanctions), where employers wield power workers because workers must provide documentation to their employer that they are “authorized” to work in the U.S. And since 2009, the Obama Administration has upped the ante and is extending E-verify rapidly.
Through diverse immigration policing programs and collaboration that are either illegal or fine-line — like 287(g) and “Secure Communities — or through local, county and state ordinances and laws like Arizona’s infamous SB-1070 or its Prop 200 that gives additional power to police and other public officials and employees to detain persons even for suspecting them of being “undocumented.”
When ICE raids and other immigration policing hit, communities everywhere, like Ellensburg just found out, are threatened with destabilization and division. When ICE and other police detain someone for immigration status offenses, community members will not hesitate to avoid the police, will not report crimes, for fear of being deported. After a raid, parents will stop sending their children to school, because they fear separation. Workers will stop going to work; others won’t even go shopping, stop going to church. ICE immigration policing is bad for communities and the economy.
ICE Destroys Rights and Destabilized Communities
Over the next few days and weeks, groups in Washington state and elsewhere will offer assistance to the families in Ellensburg that are now suffering the trauma of an ICE action and separation. And Ellensburg will join hundreds of communities across the country that are now more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because of ICE.
Read NNIRR’s HURRICANE human rights report Injustice for All: The Rise of the U.S. Immigration Policing Regime and other reports documenting abuses and rights violations at www.nnirr.org
El Comité es una organización comunitaria de justicia social con sede en Seattle, Washington. / El Comité is a community-based social justice organization based in Seattle, Washington.
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