Pay Attention to ICE’s Entrenchment in Our Communities

Itziri Gonzalez-Barcenas ’19

On February 5th, like any other Tuesday morning, the alarm on my phone rang. The world outside was quiet and somber. After fighting sleep for a few minutes, I finally woke up and checked my agenda to see what lay ahead that day. I got ready, then headed to class. 

By Common Hour, I was back in my apartment waiting for a phone call. As I waited, I casually checked Facebook. 

As I scrolled through my homepage, I couldn’t believe what I read. People were posting about an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid in Sanford, North Carolina… my hometown. 

Shocked, I opened my Facebook messages to see if my mom had sent me anything; she had. 

It was a video of a woman talking about the raid. I saw a familiar face, someone who taught me how to dance and was always the life of the party, on the video; she looked scared. Her voice shook, and she fought tears as she informed people of what had happened. There had been a raid at Bear Creek Arsenal, a manufacturing plant, where almost thirty people were detained by ICE agents. 

I froze. This was really happening. I felt a huge knot in my stomach. 

I jumped when I heard my phone ring. Back to present reality; it was my scheduled call. I decided I could push aside my emotions for a few minutes to get through it. After my call, I drove home to check on my family. 

Luckily, I arrived to a full house. While neither of my parents were taken, I know that was not the case for everyone. 

For instance, while I was home, I met the Morales brothers, both of whom attended my high school, at the local Catholic church. 

They returned home to find out their mother had been taken by ICE agents. They described the difficulty of concentrating in school and going about their everyday routines while not knowing where their mother was or if she was okay. I began to think about how things on the news often seem to be removed from our lives and our communities–until they aren’t. 

The ICE raid in Sanford was one of many throughout the state, resulting in over 200 immigrants being detained in North Carolina. 

In his Charlotte Observer article, Teo Armus quotes Atlanta ICE Field Office Director Sean Gallagher, who claims that there are consequences due to the lack of cooperation with ICE from the sheriffs in some of the largest counties in North Carolina. One of the consequences is the raids. Furthermore, Armus suggests we should expect these raids to be the “new normal” in our communities.  

When people read about these events, the news sparks immediate reactions of sadness and pain, but those sentiments fade once people return to their normal lives. 

However, not everyone has the privilege to return to a “normal life.” Immigrant families’ lives are being turned upside down around us every day. I believe that Davidson students should be more aware of and attentive to these issues.

These anti-immigrant acts are not just happening in the form of raids; they are also occurring in the form of programs and policies. Take for example, 287(g), a program in which counties can voluntarily participate in allowing deputies to use immigration databases to determine the immigration status of suspects and hand over undocumented individuals to ICE. 

Mecklenburg County was one of 78 counties nationwide that participated in the program. Although Mecklenburg County’s new Sheriff Garry McFadden ended the program recently, according to an WFAE article by Nick de la Canal, more than 15,000 people were processed for deportation during the program’s 12 years in the county. 

The ICE raids, coupled with the anti-immigrant, hostile, political climate and policies, have resulted in ongoing, compounding effects in the immigrant community. 

ICE is becoming entrenched in our communities through their widespread raids and fear-mongering tactics. “Law and order” is one thing, but inhumane acts of terror that split families apart are another. 

The end of 287(g) in Mecklenburg County and the denouncing of ICE raids in a letter signed by seven mayors across North Carolina are signs of hope. 

But, 287(g) continues to be in effect across several counties in the state, so more has to be done. Through getting informed, voting responsibly, and collaborating with local nonprofits and advocacy groups, we can all contribute to making change here in Mecklenburg County and beyond. 

Itziri Gonzalez-Barcenas is an Africana Studies major from Sanford, North Carolina. Contact her at itgonzalezbarcenas@davidson.edu.

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