In the last 20 months of the Trump administration, we have seen a continued targeting of communities of color throughout the United States. Trump and his administration of white supremacists have demonstrated that they will work tirelessly to make good on the campaign promises that galvanized much of the conservative base, from the U.S./México border wall to the Muslim ban.
In south Texas, which shares a 3,145 km border with México, the effects of Trump’s increase in immigration enforcement, carried out by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has had stark effects. While immigration raids do occur, the greatest threat to the safety of our undocumented community members is the jail to deportation pipeline. An individual could potentially be pulled over for something minor, such as a broken headlight. If the individual is unable to produce a valid driver license (which undocumented people are unable to obtain in most states), they may end up in the local jail. In San Antonio, for example, ICE agents are given access to the local jail every morning beginning at around 5am. On these unmonitored visits, they may speak to individuals in custody. If an individual is suspected of being undocumented (i.e. if they are brown, monolingual Spanish speakers, etc.) then their name is through multiple databases, including Secure Communities, driver’s license and municipal identification card databases, etc. If they are undocumented, then they are transferred to ICE and will likely end up in deportation proceedings. This collaboration between ICE and local law enforcement means that any minor run in with the police can mean deportation. The threat of deportation creates fear and anxiety over everyday tasks, such as the dropping children off at school and going to work.
This pipeline even creeps into our education system. Many schools already over rely on “school resource officers” (SROs) to handle discipline issues, especially at the secondary level. In San Antonio, each high school has 1-2 SROs, who are members of their respective school district’s police department. If a student is involved in a physical fight with another student, the student may be arrested by the SRO and then handed over to the local police department where, depending on their age, they could end up in the local jail, consequently ending up in the custody of ICE.
Texas has been at the forefront of expanding immigration enforcement since Trump signed a series of Executive Orders in January of 2017 (when he first tried to institute his Muslim ban). The introduction of SB4, which was signed into Texas law on May 7, 2017 allows local police officers to question an individual’s immigration status leading to the racial profiling of the Latinx population. In a city such as San Antonio, with a Latinx population of 63%, the opportunity for abuse is rife. When local law enforcement does ICE’s job the number of detentions and deportations increases.
As a public school teacher in San Antonio, I’ve witnessed the very real effects of the war on immigrants. Our undocumented parents limit how often they are out in public, therefore minimizing their risk of coming into contact with law enforcement. They are relegated to the shadows, relying on documented family members, such as older siblings to do school drop-off and pick-ups. I’ve worked with children who’ve had a parent or other family member deported are now experiencing the trauma of being parentless, on top of potentially being shuffled between family members. They do not know when or if they will see their parents again.
The history of white supremacy and settler colonialism runs deep in the United States and especially in Texas, where white settlers waged war against México in response to México’s move to outlaw slavery in the 1830s. The language of immigration is steeped in racist overtones. The large majority of people crossing the Texas/México border are from the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Many of these people are from indigenous communities and are of mestiza/o blood. They are more native to this land than anyone who identifies as white or European and yet, they are the ‘foreigners.’
The Texas/México border is one site of struggle amongst many throughout the world where refugees and immigrants are being treated like less than human, left to waste away in detention centers or worse, left to die en route. We must continue to fight white supremacy in all of its forms by providing material solidarity for those that are directly affected by the oppressive immigration system in the United States and beyond.
Photo: Abolish ICE SATX