Prosecuted in the Promise Land

A call came in as soon as I logged off the dial-up connection. I let the phone ring because I didn’t recognize the number, but the answering machine picked up. A panicked voice came through.

Back in those dial-up days, when I was about 11 years old, you couldn’t receive phone calls on a landline while you were connected online. The man on the other side must have been calling over and over for some time.

“Hector,” he said in breathless Spanish. “Don’t go down Iowa Avenue on your way to work today. The police set up a checkpoint so DO NOT go down Iowa, if not you’ll get deported. Te van a chingar.”

It was the wrong number, no one in my family is named Hector. But to this day, I wonder if Hector made it to work that day or if he was instead taken to a detention center and sent back to his homeland. I also wonder why he came to the United States in the first place.

Most immigrants to the U.S. that I have met are economic migrants; people who migrate to improve their living standards and seek job opportunities. There are more and more refugees coming to America and Europe, but most immigrants don’t run from prosecution or violence.

But sometimes they find it at their arrival.

Immigrating to a country with a better economy does not guarantee anything. Getting to a better economy is just the first obstacle on the long road to a better life. And sometimes those migrants may arrive only to face fears of expulsion, prosecution and criminalization by local law enforcement agencies.

It’s a worry that many in the United States face under the new White House administration. President Donald Trump has promised on several occasions to expel 11 million Mexican immigrants from the country.

Photo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE special agent detaining a suspect. Photo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Already, the country has seen an uptick in controversial ICE raids. ICE arrests have doubled under the new administration and, as ICE spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea explained to the Washington Post, “ICE will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” meaning anyone in the United States illegally can be deported.

Anyone can be victim of an ICE raid, even Daniel Ramirez Medina, a DACA recipient arrested in February with alleged gang ties that was supposedly protected by the last administration. In March, another DACA recipient, Daniela Vargas, was arrested after speaking at an immigration press conference in Jackson City Hal, Mississippi.

But it’s not an issue unique to America. In 2014, El Foro Galego de Inmigración launched protests on May Day denouncing changes from the Spanish Government to regulations regarding the immediate expulsion of immigrants from Spanish territories.

Raids began in Spain after the Council of the European Union put forth an operation called Mos Mariorum which consists of an increase of police presence in stations, ports and neighborhoods with a great immigrant presence. Critics like the European collective Refugees Welcome have criticized the operation for its racial character.

El Foro Galego de Inmigración has continued to protest in Galicia for immigrant rights. In 2015, apart from criticizing the Spanish government’s “repressive and criminalizing character” of immigration politics in Spain, they also denounce the bureaucratic labyrinth immigrants must go through in order to receive social services.

Here and back home in the United States, we debate on the merit of immigration based almost solely on the contributions immigrants make to our economies and the burden they may have on our social services.

But perhaps all we need remember is that immigrants are hard working people looking to make a living far from home for themselves and their children. There’s nothing criminal about that.

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