During last fall’s campaign, Donald Trump vowed to get rid of the “bad hombres” among the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S., but recent raids appear far less targeted, reports Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein
President Donald Trump is keeping his promise to go after undocumented people in the United States, with recent reports of sweeps by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE) sending waves of fear through the Latino and other immigrant communities in California, Texas and Arizona.
Trump had justified the need for such round-ups as necessary to get rid of “bad hombres” but immigrant advocates say the raids are indiscriminate, rounding up as many undocumented people as possible.
“It is now clear the Trump Administration is not concerned with public safety,” said California State Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon. “They are only focused on ripping hard-working men, women, and children from their families and communities. Mass deportations will not make us safer, instead they will simply undermine our state’s economy.”
De Leon issued a statement critical of ICE actions on Feb. 10, saying he had been misled by ICE assurances that refugee advocates had exaggerated when they claimed that more than 100 people had been arrested in raids across Southern California a day earlier.
“I appreciate that ICE finally disclosed details about their recent raids, but stunned to learn that ICE’s public comments made [on Feb. 9] were blatantly false,” said De Leon, noting that ICE later confirmed that it had arrested 160 people.
De Leon, perhaps the most influential elected Latino official in the state of California, called on ICE to work more effectively with the communities of California that De Leon represents. “If you want to ensure ongoing safety of the public and law enforcement personnel, my recommendation is to drop the mass deportation threats roiling our communities and instead focus strictly on dangerous felons,” he said.
Among the groups most targeted for mass deportation are the undocumented day laborers and domestic workers who work the fields and clean the major hotels and the houses of the rich and famous.
Chris Newman is Legal Director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network or NDLON, which represents tens of thousands of day laborers from coast to coast. I spoke with him earlier this month.
Dennis Bernstein: Could you talk about the concerns that NDLON now has, in terms of the unfolding, what we’ve seen already with these anti-immigrant directives, coming from the President of the United States and the mass sweeps that have followed?
Chris Newman: Well, it’s certainly far worse than we would have imagined, even days before the president was inaugurated. And I think that there’s no question that the Trump administration is trying to terrorize people, trying to terrorize immigrants, trying to terrorize the country, in an effort to try to assert legitimacy for the administration and to try to exercise executive authority.
I do think, again, they are going out of their way to conflate anxieties that people have about the economy, about terrorism, about globalization. They’re doing their best to sort of bundle them all up. And the reality is that the real world implications for immigrants are quite dire. And, so, you are quite right. We are left in a position of reacting as the president appears to be making good on many of his campaign promises.
DB: Now, we’ve seen a couple of high profile cases of them demonstrating their resolve to intimidate and deport. Of course, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, where there was a case where ICE showed up at a daycare center, a medical center, and said they had the wrong address. They were looking for a rapist. But all the kids in the daycare center were terrorized.
We now have seen the arrest of a woman who was in the country 21 years, taken out, essentially, out of the arms of her family. Are you hearing more and more about intimidation, about things happening? Could you give us a sense of how that might be reverberating in the community that you represent?
CN: … I think that you’ve put your finger right on it. These actions are a deliberate effort to intimidate and terrorize the community. One of the things I think is commonly misunderstood about the organized xenophobes, the people who are really the propelling force of the Trump campaign: their goal is to limit the foreign born, non-white population of the United States. And deportation is only a piece of how they hope to bring about that agenda. In fact, they want to bring about a far more sophisticated and nefarious plan to effectuate a reduction of the foreign-born, non-white population through attrition.
And so, the idea is to make life sufficiently miserable for immigrants, such that they voluntarily go home. The tipping line that people know about is the South deportation. And, also, such that people are deterred from coming to the United States. And within that context, and within that broader agenda that they have, deportation/criminal enforcement is just one tool. Their goal is to cut access to education, to jobs, to the means of survival, and also to instill fear. And within that context the act of showing courage and resistance contravenes the strategy.
You can look to the deportation of Guadalupe in Phoenix as an example of the brutality of the Trump policy. But you can also look to the way in which the community responded in Phoenix, and the courageous protests as a sign of resistance. And it will also be the new normal. …
CN: I think that ICE should be called to task for their lack of transparency in all of these enforcement operations. … ICE public information officers — or spokespeople — have been intentionally obfuscating, precisely to try to create, I think, a sense of chaos, confusion, and unrest. And, to me, it seems totally unacceptable that, number one, ICE refuses to provide details of enforcement operations. And, number two, that that seems to be an acceptable answer from the mainstream press.
I think ICE must be compelled to answer how many people were detained, and why and where. And, I think, reporters should not accept “No” for an answer. It … cannot be the new normal that the largest federal interior law enforcement agency does not provide basic information about raids. Particularly when we have a president who has intentionally engaged in a strategy of… we’ll call it the disruption, or the intentional, sort of, sowing of chaos, that they’ve been involved in. Yes, so I don’t have details, but ICE should be providing them, forthwith.
DB: Now, let me ask you, on that policy: is this now a pattern in practice, of not saying who’s being arrested, why they’re being arrested, or where they’re taken? Is this a new intensification? How would you describe that?
CN: I would describe it as sort of an unrestrained tendency that’s been with the agency since its inception. As you know, we’ve discussed on your program before, ICE was involved in intentional dishonesty in the rolling out of the so-called Secure Communities Program, which coerced local police to become front line law enforcement agencies.
And this is just not my view, as an attorney with a point of view as an advocate. I mean, this was the view of members of Congress and federal judges starting with a freedom of information request. ICE was intentionally involved in a deliberate strategy of disinformation about that program. … And for many years, organizations like mine and others have raised questions about whether ICE is, in fact, a rogue law enforcement agency.
But, now, you have a rogue law enforcement agency essentially presided over by a rogue president. And so, I think that the types of tactics of propaganda and, again, misinformation that ICE has been involved in, are now currently, unrestrained.
And so, I do think it is incumbent upon the concerned community members to do, and to look at what Phoenix did, and look at what Puente, in Arizona, did in response to Guadalupe’s raid. And we need to model and replicate that type of courage and response.
But, I also think that members of the press are going to have to be more vigilant at holding ICE accountable for the dissembling way in which they’re sowing confusion about these enforcement operations.
DB: And, just finally, are you all taking precautions? Are there more meetings? Are there more informational gatherings? Are people being presented with more ways of protecting themselves? How do, you know, to be alert, what to do when they arrive. Is that part of what’s going on now in terms of the defense against this?
CN: Without a doubt. I mean, we have one of the most, or the most, xenophobic senator is now the top cop in the United States, in Jeff Sessions, as the new Attorney General. And [it] is now, I think, imperative that people… when you have somebody who has sort of forecasted his intent to roll back civil rights protections that have been won over the last several decades, it’s imperative that people… take it upon themselves, not just to prepare to defend themselves, but also to defend constitutional values that have been fought for and won over generations.
And so, yes, indeed, across the country there are high-level “know your rights” informational seminars, such that immigrants are being prepared to defend themselves and to defend the constitution.