We must make it impossible for ICE to function

To end the violent separation of immigrant families, the public must send the message that we will not contribute our labor, money, or silence to those who do business with ICE and profit from the suffering of immigrants.

Across the U.S. (and the world) people are refusing to be complicit with the inhumane treatment of immigrants by taking action against local governments and private companies that help ICE. It’s working.

Just a week ago, a young Swedish student refused to sit down on a plane carrying an Afghan refugee that was being deported back to his country. For almost 15 minutes the student remained standing, struggling with the airplane staff and passengers who wanted her to sit down so the plane could take off — but she did not sit down.

For many, she has become an example of what allyship can look like as the United States isconfronted by the effects of Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. But she is part of a long list of people and groups that are modeling non cooperation as a way to resist the severe and inhumane anti-immigration policies tearing families apart.

For years, the immigrant rights movement has tried to bring light to the issues of family separation, criminalization of undocumented immigrants, expansion of detention centers, ICE abuses, and other atrocities that are a direct result of the U.S. immigration system. For too long, the public remained silent. But not anymore.

In a matter on months, images of families separated at the border, testimonies of parents unable to locate their children, young kids on tape crying and asking for their mothers, and stories of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse at the hands of ICE agents, have made their way into American households everywhere. At unprecedented levels, people are speaking out and questioning the America we are living in these days.

While the abuses aren’t new, the magnitude and relentlessness of the attacks this last year have shaken the immigrant community at its core. The crisis at the border has unveiled the many ways in which the Department of Homeland Security, through ICE and Customs and Border Patrol, and the Department of Justice have for many years attacked and persecuted immigrants. The well oiled machine created under Obama, Bush, and Clinton is being used at its full capacity by the Trump administration and shows no signs of slowing down.

As millions of Americans see photos children in cages and wonder how we got to this point, we are finally able to put the spotlight on DHS and ask: How do these agencies? operate? Who is benefitting from their attacks on immigrants? Whose hands and money are dirty by being accomplices to such horrors?

Our immigration system — the one that rips apart parents and children, mistreats vulnerable people in detention centers, and terrorizes people for simply seeking a better life — is not broken. It was designed to separate families and criminalize immigrants, and its tentacles are everywhere.

While private detention center companies have been the main target by activists for many years, and should continue to be, just in the first quarter of the Trump administration local county contracts issued by ICE spiked. In Texas alone, 18 contracts were signed to provide training and resources to local police so they can act as immigration agents. This controversial program and similar contracts:

  • Allow local police to do the job of federal immigration officers
  • Pay sheriff departments or counties to hold undocumented immigrants
  • Train local officials to target undocumented immigrants in their hometowns
  • Use local resources to operate in homes, schools, workplaces, etc.

These contracts are reviewed (or even initiated), approved, and implemented by city and county officials who are elected by and ostensibly represent families that oppose and are directly affected by ICE’s activities.

And it does not stop at law enforcement agencies or private prisons. Transportation companies, business service providers, hotels, and tech companies all support ICE operations. So do public schools, local labor departments, departments of motor vehicles, and universities.

Companies like Greyhound and Motel 6, that do not have direct contracts with ICE, carry out practices that support their operations. Livestreams and posts from Greyhound customers surfaced late last year of Border Patrol agents boarding buses — with permission from Greyhound itself — to search for and undocumented passengers. There are reports of public schools sharing student information with ICE. And cases of hospitals allowing border patrol agents into their facilities to detain undocumented immigrants seeking medical attention — as in the case of Rosa Maria, a disabled 10-year-old girl who was held in custody by agents while receiving emergency surgery.

Northeastern students, faculty, and community members protesting Northeastern University’s ties with ICE last Tuesday, July 23rd.

Training and research that support the expansion of ICE’s operations are being carried out by our universities. Institutions that receive tuition fees from undocumented students or the children of undocumented immigrants are also receiving millions of dollars from ICE.

Similarly, consulting firms, business services, communication companies and the “progressive” tech industry have all become part of the infrastructure that allow ICE to function and grow. Companies like Amazon. The world’s biggest online retailer currently provide ICE with face recognition technology , databases, and supplies — practices that contradict CEO’s Jeff Bezos’ public opposition to Trump’s policies and his pledge of $33 million to help undocumented youth. Microsoft has a $19.4 million contract with ICE to process data and artificial intelligence capabilities; others like Motorola, Dell, and Canon provide services and products to ICE.

As we create public awareness of the persecution of immigrants and the institutions and companies that support, advise, fund, and carry out the work of ICE, people are resisting. Companies that do business with ICE employ hundreds of thousands of people and receive billions from their consumers, which means their employees and customers are all being pushed to pick a side: ICE and the inhumane detention of children, or dignity and respect of all immigrants.

With over a year and a half of massive mobilizations under their belts, Americans are looking at ways they can stop cooperating and directly confront this administration’s policies. People are looking at every intersection of the web that makes up our immigration system and finding out who they can directly challenge.

A few months ago, a group of Google employees resigned from the company after information came out of its involvement in a Pentagon program that would develop AI technology for drones. Also this year, Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf notified residents of her town of planned ICE raids in the area and faced backlash and possible “obstruction of justice” charges for doing so. A Department of Labor employee, Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts, publicly resigned his position after being assigned to track activity that would have lead to detentions and deportations of workers. Students at Northeastern denounced their school’s contract with ICE through a series of protest and event interruptions as news of research contracts surfaced.

As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit,” read the letter sent to Microsoft’s internal message board by its own workers demanding the company end contracts with ICE. Throughout the country, waves of people at all intersections with the problem are choosing to not be complicit with ICE’s operations. Whether it’s their city or county government getting paid to hold detainees in local jails. Or employers who provides services or technology to ICE that allows them to persecute and separate families. Businesses that families buy or get services from but also who provide the same services to ICE. Or even those working at federal agencies where they are directly executing these policies.

We all have interacted and supported the criminalization, detention, and deportation of immigrants in this country with our work, our money and participation in institutions that work with ICE. But we can choose to stop and declare that #WeWontBeComplicit any longer.

Because the truth is that to #AbolishICE, we need to make it impossible for that agency to function. Whether it is interrupting county meetings until local governments cease to work alongside immigration agents, or refusing to work at companies that have a hand in the separation of families, or walking out of schools that provide research and training for DHS, The public must send a message that it will not contribute with their labor, their money, or their silence to those who have business with ICE and profit from the suffering of the immigrant community.

On July 31, thousands of people across the country are participating in a National Day of Action against local governments, corporations, and all institutions that do business with ICE. To find out more and take the #WeWontBeComplicit pledge, visit nobusinesswithice.com.