The question I am asked over and over lately: “how do I get temporary guardianship for my children in case I am detained and deported?” The fact that I hear this question, or some similar form of it, so frequently in recent weeks is indicative of the level of fear in the immigrant community. This fear is a direct result of the new policies of our President, his executive orders, the follow up memoranda from Homeland Security, and the waves of “targeted enforcement” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that have been unleashed nationwide.
Let’s be clear, ICE has been carrying out its daily work of initiating deportation proceedings long before this presidency. That has not changed. ICE currently has the same number of officers and the same amount of resources. There is no “deportation force” over and above what we already had – at least not yet. However, the tone and tactics being used have clearly changed. Virtually any undocumented immigrant is now a priority for removal, regardless of whether they have a criminal record. Media recently reported that ICE detained a domestic abuse victim in El Paso, Texas after going to court to file a restraining order. ICE also detained a young Dreamer from Argentina in Jackson, Mississippi just after leaving a press conference where she spoke out against these changes. People hear reports of these high-profile cases and wonder if they will be next.
It is the beginning of a campaign of fear directed towards not only the undocumented, but immigrants in general. Fear feeds rumors, which can turn fear into panic. This is the first step. Order a travel ban for Muslim-majority countries in the name of protecting us from terrorists. Call for more deportations of undocumented immigrants while labeling them as criminals. This scares immigrants, but also creates fear of the “other” among the wider general population. Is this the America we want to be?