FORERO: Charlottesville and U.Va. must protect undocumented immigrants

In the face of ICE raids across the country, the Charlottesville and University community must take meaningful steps to protect undocumented immigrants

nop-ICE-CourtesyWikimediaCommons

Since President Donald Trump's election, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been conducting raids throughout California, and most recently in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he promised to deport “two to three million criminal immigrants.” Since his election, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been conducting raids throughout California, and most recently in Tennessee and North Carolina

Acting ICE Director Tom Homan stated, “Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we're going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers". However, these raids are targeting hard-working immigrants and not criminal immigrants. Not only are these actions cruel and unusual punishments towards immigrant families, but towards employers and teachers who are also directly affected.

ICE is ripping apart families, particularly those which are made up of both undocumented immigrants and U.S citizens. After the raids in Tennessee, more than 500 kids missed school the next day. 

CNN claimed, “Children sobbed as they shared their families' stories at news conferences and prayer vigils. And teachers in local schools suddenly found themselves on the front lines of a crisis.” 

Teaches made posters stating, “I cried Thursday night wondering which of my students were without parents that night” and, “I feel ashamed of my country that was founded on immigration!” 

In addition, workplaces such as meat-packing factories, tomato plants and even 7-Elevens have been targeted by ICE. ICE has conducted raids in 98 7-Eleven stores throughout 17 states and Washington, D.C, according to NPR. If ICE continues to raid workplaces in order to target hard working men and women, the American economy will suffer. 

According to New American Economy, “undocumented immigrants here are working, paying taxes, and even starting their own businesses. They also play an integral role in our economy, often filling jobs in agriculture, construction, and hospitality that would otherwise remain vacant.”

With more than 140,000 citizens who live with at least one undocumented immigrant, Virginia could be next in line to experience a large scale raid from ICE. If so, the responsibility to protect our economy, our businesses, our friends and especially the families of our students who are U.S. citizens lies in the hands of the people themselves. The duty is ours because ICE often operates in an extralegal manner, unconcerned about obtaining warrants to enter private property and arrest those who they believe to be undocumented. The lack of legislative response to these flagrant violations goes to show that lawmakers and the judicial system cannot protect undocumented families, and therefore the responsibility to help these people, who only are looking for a better life for their families, falls upon civilians and other institutions.

In Charlottesville, University President Teresa Sullivan released a statement claiming that the University was going to provide assistance and steadfast support to “dreamers” in response to  the repeal of DACA. However, the question now is whether the University will provide this steadfast support for the undocumented people in Charlottesville and the students with undocumented family members. After the mass raid in Tennessee, a school gym turned into a sanctuary. Can we expect the same support from our University if raids were to occur in Charlottesville? If our community does experience a large raid, the University must not turn away those looking for refuge, as well as put into effect programs to provide legal assistance for students whose parents are in danger of deportation.

Employers in Charlottesville need to educate themselves  how to protect their undocumented employees in the event of a raid. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) calls employers to make a written response plan ahead of time, train their staff not to talk to ICE agents and to know their rights. Additionally, Charlottesville residents must also consider opening a hotline in case of raids, where volunteers can follow ICE agents and report their current locations, just like they did in North Carolina. We need to be prepared to protect the families that live in our community. 

Charlottesville must be prepared to face potential raids that threaten the people in our community. Over the past few months, the city has professed a motto of unity, in the face of the hate that surfaced in August. Now the question is, will Charlottesville remain united when the ones attacking the well-being of our community is our own government?

Izabella Forero is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com.

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