This morning we had the opportunity to listen to representatives from I.C.E. — Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We definitely had some mixed feelings during the presentation. We learned a lot about the program in general, and eventually got down to the immigration side of things. It didn’t take very long after that to stir up all of our emotions. We felt like the representatives evaded a lot of our questions and always spun them into a rehearsed answer that made them seem like the protagonists. One hot button issue was when we asked Rudy if he would mind not using the word ‘alien’ to refer to undocumented immigrants during the presentation. He replied by saying that because the word was in legalized documents, it was not at all wrong or offensive. It seemed at some points as though we were talking to machines, even when we asked them about their personal feelings regarding immigration. At one point Jason asked what their motivation was to go to work every day, and Rudy turned to the power point and read the I.C.E. mission statement! They were also adamant that they were ‘rescuing’ the immigrants from the poor situations that they were in, such as the drop houses that they are often found in. We thought that was ironic, since they find the immigrants and then deport them back to Mexico, where they were to trying to escape from in the first place.
This meeting was the first opportunity that we have had so far to learn about the policy side of things, and it really showed how separate both sides of the immigration issue are. It always seems to come down to human rights versus the law, and the two just seem to get more and more distant the closer we get to the heart of the issue. It is disheartening to realize how complicated this issue has come to be. Those that fight for human rights are advocating for the basic rights of human beings, and organizations such as I.C.E. are working against the crime and drug issues. Somewhere along the line these two things have become tangled together yet have arrived at opposite ends of the spectrum. I.C.E. focuses on crimes and drugs, but undocumented immigration has become caught up in it, and now an administrative violation has become a felony of the worst kind. It seems that human rights have been lost somewhere in the desert.
The more we learn, the more we wonder — How will we ever be able to create a solution when we are nowhere near close to compromise?
-Cassie Van Lier