Troubled by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stories, I set out on a quest to find out more details from the people affected by the immigration policies.
Every year, the number of immigrants detained by ICE rises, but as the number of detainees rises so do the allegations made against the agents who take them away.
Before I began my search for undocumented immigrants who would be willing to speak with me, I got an interview with SEVIS Coordinator Marco Lagos at CSUSB in hopes of understanding the situation better. He is one of many who works with international and immigrant students at CSUSB.
“When I thought about the possibility of working for a
university where education is the reason for their attendance, that’s why I thought: ‘well this is probably going to be something more fulfilling’ and it has been definitely because you help people. You’re working with lives,” said Mr. Lagos.
In his field of work, Lagos had the opportunity to hear the stories of students he’s worked with. He has worked with ICE Agents regarding students in his line of work.
“The agents would describe their work to be ‘stressful and heartbreaking’ when having to deport people,” noted Lagos; “I am not saying that I support them, like when they’re nasty with people, I don’t support that.”
From 2017-2018, 1,655 pregnant women were booked into detention centers for over 10 months. An estimated 28 of those women had experienced a miscarriage in the centers.
Between the years 2013-2017, there were reported 1,310 sexual abuse allegations against ICE agents by immigrants. This would be dwarfed by the 33,000 filed complaints of various forms of abuse between 2010-2016.
For safety reasons, the identity of the following interviewees will remain anonymous. The next interviewee will be referred to as ‘Mark.’
I found ‘Mark’ working for an automobile store. He is undocumented and had a detailed story about his experiences.
‘Mark’ described how he lives in fear, feeling any day could be the day his life changes forever. He described the “predatory” nature behind ICE raiding established homeowners in the country.
He spoke of his journey and how he began going to school.
‘Mark’ went to college at UC Merced graduating a while back, where they utilized resources similar to the staff members working the role Mr. Lagos does. ‘Mark’s experience working with these staff members was adding to their college stress.
“I would not take on the cruel and inhuman treatment that ICE has adopted. There are laws that allow immigrants to apply for asylum, denying them that right is a crime the U.S. commits towards immigrants. Our current occupant of the White House uses division and scapegoating as a form to rally political support and maintain power,” said ‘Mark.’
‘Mark’ has kept up with the news surrounding ICE through news and media outlets as their citizenship status is affected by ICE.
Raids are part of an ICE procedure in which there is an attempt to detain potential immigrants in local detention centers for further evaluation. They can raid job sites, homes, and have checkpoints along the roads. These checkpoints are designed to monitor citizens, leaving many of the interviewees at risk of being detained in one of these raids.
During the time it takes to fill out the paperwork, the detained may be taken to a detention center. The detainee is granted the chance to get in contact with a lawyer which can help delay their removal from the country. Should the case fail or the detainee agrees, the deportation process will begin.
My next interviewee, Juan Romero, is a laborer at a nearby construction site. He piqued my interest when he spoke about how he earned his citizenship.
Romero was once an immigrant who went through the process to become a citizen. He left his home country as he felt it was too dangerous to remain. He is now an independent construction worker and a citizen.
“I know the U.S. can’t let every single person who comes by get in the country; that’s a dangerous game to play. I believe it’s good we pay attention to the people we let in. If we had a way to tell people’s intentions to see if they’re here to work and give themselves the opportunity, then that would make the job easier. But treating them like objects isn’t going to work,” said Romero.
This ideal follows along with the intended purpose of a process known as ‘naturalization’ in which an immigrant may gain legal citizenship status in the U.S. In fiscal year 2018, over 757,000 immigrants were naturalized.
This process is completed if the person happens to fill all the requirements set forth by the Immigration and Nationality Act. These include: having exceptional literary skills, being above 18, and having been physically present in the U.S for 30 months to name a few.
Wanting more perspectives, I asked Juan if he knew anyone else with similar stories, and I was referred by Juan to my next interviewee, who for context purposes will be referred to as ‘Nick’. Juan met ‘Nick’ in a Home Depot after he was purchasing equipment one day and the two have known each other for years since then.
“My parents and I left to the US when I was 12. We found somebody that would help us hire a coyote to get us through the border. We were told that we had to follow every instruction and order that the coyote gave us, or else we would be left behind and whatever happened to us would be our problem,” said ‘Nick’
‘Nick’ would happen to be a case in which an immigrant isn’t eligible for the legal process due to the requirements considering his method of arriving.
“Expecting children from other countries to know the law and know how to do things correctly is unrealistic; we’re having to do backflips by age 3 in order to live,” said ‘Nick.’
During his time waiting for job offers with other immigrants he discussed immigration. Being well versed in the personal side of it, he knows out of experience many procedures such as the protocols for potential raids. In the fiscal year of 2017, in my local area, the Los Angeles area, ICE detained 8,419 immigrants.
“For instance when you’re trying to protect your borders, of course, you take certain measures, but once you have immigrants that are already in the country you have to have very humane perspectives when dealing with their issues, you need to be very considerate how you treat them,” Lagos said.
During my interviews, I noticed multiple perspectives that shared distaste towards the allegations ICE has been facing. Some of the interviewees suggested its time the enforcement of these laws get updated.
There have been cases in which a detainee was deported only for them to enter the U.S. illegally once again. As numbers of detainees increase so do filed cases of alleged abuse towards inmates.