Submitted by Ronni Tartlet and Amy Studzienko
On Saturday, June 30, roughly 60 Lopezians of all ages assembled at the intersection of Ferry, Center and Fisherman Bay roads. They stood in the rain, bearing signs of support for families that have been ripped apart after crossing our southern border. Similar marches took place across the nation.
Lopezians came out to express their disgust with the separation of more than 2,000 undocumented children from their families, a feature of Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy (CNN, July 3). After a huge nationwide protest, the administration said it would change course and stop seizing children; but the government is now moving toward a policy of detaining entire families indefinitely. Instead of being released to await the outcome of their claims, immigrant families are increasingly remaining in jails as their cases grind slowly through the court system over months or years (The Guardian, July 3). Human rights activists describe this policy as inhumane and cruel. Right here in Tacoma, at the Northwest Detention Center, “some 1,500 immigrants are being held during their asylum review” (Tacoma Weekly, May 5).
Many of these draconian policies were set in motion under the Obama administration, and their brutality is increasing rapidly. Under Trump, immigration arrests rose 41 percent in 2017 over the previous year. Increasingly aggressive raids and mass deportations of otherwise law-abiding, longtime residents fracture immigrant families and sow fear in many communities.
Trump’s budget proposal for 2019 increases Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s funding by nearly a billion dollars (Newsweek, April 12) while slashing food stamps, Medicaid and Section 8 housing assistance, each by more than 20 percent (Washington Post, Feb. 12).
Many Americans — Lopezians included — are seeking to critically examine the role of ICE, and what its currently ballooning power says about our country’s value system.
Anne Sholtz, an exchange student from Germany who studied on Lopez, would like to see more sympathy around people who’ve left their lives, homes and families to try and start over.
Sholtz shared that in Germany, which is also facing unprecedented levels of immigration, the focus is on integrating new residents, rather than imprisoning and deporting people.
She described how she views the experience: “You don’t leave because you want to. You had a life there, but the situation was so bad there that you couldn’t stay. … So you had to go to whole different country where you don’t know anyone and start a new life. I don’t get why families that have been through all of that have to be separated. Children deserve to have parents. They deserve to grow up with their parents.”
Ava Franklin, a student at Lopez School, felt that a lot of the paranoia around undocumented immigrants could be resolved with background checks, and the current cruel processes were superfluous. Sonnette Roberson, also a student at Lopez School, pointed out that when an American wants to move to Mexico it’s easy, and that is a blatant double standard.
Organizations such as RAICES, United We Dream, Skagit Immigrant Rights Council and Seattle’s Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (http://www.nwirp.org) are defending the rights of immigrants and pushing to shift the focus away from enforcement in favor of a more humane system of providing refuge for asylum seekers. The NW Detention Center Resistance holds weekly rallies outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where around 1,500 immigrants are currently jailed by ICE.
Lopezians can help by donating to any of these excellent groups. The Huddle table at the Farmers’ Market hosts more literature and collection jars. The AID-NW Welcome Center in Seattle is collecting backpacks and TSA-sized toiletries to give to individuals as they are released from the Tacoma Detention Center. Many allies are joining vigils at the center (1623 J Street, Suite 2, Tacoma) and outside the ICE offices (1000 Second Ave). A similar demonstration in Portland successfully shut down their detention center last week (CBS, June 28). To write to someone locked up at NWDC-Tacoma, visit www.nwdcresistance.org/get-involved.