Since October, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE as the agency is commonly known, has increased the number of worksite investigations and arrests to an amount previously unseen. According to ABC News, worksite investigations doubled from 1,716 to 3,510 and worksite arrests increased from 172 to 610 in fiscal year 2017 compared to the last seven months (Sands, 2018). These numbers do not include home arrests and those outside of the workplace.
Several recent arrests (or attempted arrests) involving ICE have made national news, including the tragic death of a couple in California who wrecked their car attempting to flee ICE agents in April and the arrest of 97 meatpacking plant workers in Tennessee (also in April) that left their town reeling and resulted in nearly 550 children out of school the following day (Eltagouri & Wang, 2018; Blitzer, 2018). ICE raids can be devastating for Latino communities and for the family members that are left behind to pick up the pieces. Though ICE agents are supposed to follow specific rules when going into a raid or making an arrest, the rules are sometimes forgotten, as recently demonstrated by the warrantless arrest of a Guatemalan worker on a New York dairy farm (U.S. News and World Report, 2018).
Fear tactics used by ICE are intended to scare immigrants and force them out of work, into hiding, or out of the country all together. Fear is a tangible thing for immigrants—regardless of documentation status—as ICE continues to ramp up the number of raids and arrests across the country. For those who do not speak English, the idea of having to defend oneself in front of an ICE agent might seem even more terrifying. Though alleviating the fear seems like a nearly impossible task, we, as advocates for farmworkers and immigrants in general, can play a huge role in protecting vulnerable members of our community.
Multiple pro-immigration organizations have released educational material in several languages to inform immigrants of their rights and steps to take when confronted with an ICE agent. The American Immigration Lawyers Association, for example, provides handouts for the home, workplace, and public with information on what to do in the event that an agent approaches at any of these locations. The handouts—found here—instruct individuals to stay calm and to not run away. They then walk readers through their rights, including asking for and inspecting a warrant prior to letting agents into the home and demanding the right to speak with a lawyer before answering any questions. Immigrants are often unaware that they have such rights, making it even more important that advocates disperse this information to anyone who might need it.
The National Immigrant Justice Center is also a great resource and has a page with plenty of tools to help individuals come up with a safety plan and familiarize themselves with their institutional rights prior to even meeting an ICE agent. Printing the above educational materials and giving them to farmworkers in the clinic, local employers who hire immigrants and the employees themselves, and leaders of Latino churches in the community is an easy way to disperse this information. Providing immigrants a safe space—whether it be in a church, an advocate’s home, or elsewhere—to discuss their fears and share resources is another important form of aid. Instead of standing by, we should empower those in our community who feel like they can’t speak up against authority, especially considering that ICE is here to stay for the foreseen future.
American Immigration Lawyers Association (2017). Know Your Rights Handouts: If ICE Visits a Home, Employer, or Public Space. Retrieved from http://www.aila.org/advo-media/tools/psas/know-your-rights-handouts-if-ice-visits.
Blitzer, J. (2018, April 24). An Ice Raid has Turned the Lives of Hundreds of Tennessee Kids Upside Down. The New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/an-icesmall-raid-has-turned-the-lives-of-hundreds-of-tennessee-kids-upside-down.
Eltagouri, M. & Wang, A.B. (2018, April 12). A Couple Fleeing ICE Died in a Crash. Agents Might Not Have Told the Truth About Chasing Them. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/04/12/a-couple-fleeing-ice-died-in-a-crash-agents-might-not-have-told-the-truth-about-chasing-them/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fe186f70b600.
National Immigrant Justice Center (n.d.). Everyone in the United States, Including Undocumented Immigrants, Has Rights Under the U.S. Constitution. Retrieved from https://www.immigrantjustice.org/know-your-rights/Preparing-for-ICE-Enforcement-Actions.
Sands, G. (2018, May 14). ICE Ramps up Workplace Arrests for Immigration Violations. ABC News. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/ice-ramps-workplace-arrests-immigration-violations/story?id=55161435.
U.S. News and World Report (2018, April 19). Immigration Raid: Guatemalan Worker Arrested on Dairy Farm. U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-york/articles/2018-04-19/ice-raid-guatemalan-worker-arrested-on-new-york-dairy-farm.