Thanks to recent reports released by major news organizations, such as HuffPost and CNN, the public has been given an increasingly closer look into the struggle through which many immigrant families have been forced to endure. Indeed, the debate surrounding immigration policy have been exacerbated since November 8th, 2016, but it has inflamed further alongside Trump’s relentless attack on The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). With this program caught in a sort of administrative tug-of-war, several children and their families have fallen through cracks, being held in detention centers, bearing conditions that many have called “inhumane.” As a mass of high school and university students have been affected by our present immigration system, it should be of no surprise that campuses across the country have much to say on the issue.
The Daily Pennsylvanian: According to Keith Burkett, a student-writer at Penn, Philadelphia Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office is one of the most aggressive in the nation. Burkett, more so than giving his own evaluation, synthesized the attitudes of US politicians, succinctly presenting the crux of the immigration debate that ensues within and between the branches of our government.
• As stated by an investigation headed by Pro Publica and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia’s ICE Office has been "arresting more undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions than any other place in the country." Burkette explains that “reporters analyzed unpublished data from ICE, finding that 64 percent of immigrants arrested in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware didn’t have criminal convictions. The national figure, on the other hand, is 38 percent”
• Berkette discusses these figures with Lou Barletta, a Republican Representative of Pennsylvania's 11th ward. Sticking to the partisan philosophy, Barletta sees “immigrants as people who break the law and take away jobs from middle-class families.” In response to the results of the Publica/Inquirer report, Barletta says “obviously those numbers reflect that ICE in Pennsylvania is doing their job; they’re doing the work they’re supposed to do. This outlook is quite compatible with that of ICE, as former Director, Sarah Saldaña, stated in a report that “high arrest numbers are crucial to agency’s success with Congress.”
• Barletta’s article, however, presents both sides of the coin, penning (pun intended) the comments of retired immigration judge Walter A. Durling. “Why take into custody an individual who has been here for 15 to 20 years, has U.S. children, and one arrest for harassment, public intoxication or some such piddling infraction?’
Santa Barbara Daily Nexus: On the opposite coast, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) student Sanya Kamidi zeroes in on the testimony of Santa Barbara Congressman Salud Carbajal after his visit to the Tornillo detention facility in Texas, offering insight as to what happens after ICE has made their arrests.
• According to Carbajal, the detention center is less than the “optimal, adequate conditions for children.” He describes what he had seen, reporting that children were “woken up at 5 a.m. after they were incarcerated,” and then were immediately “rushed to showers and given less than five minutes at most.” He adds that “because this facility is in the desert, they’re only given 10-20 minutes of recreation once or twice a day.”
• Kamidi synthesizes the congressman’s report, writing that though Carbajal “believes the [detention facility] is providing a ‘basic level of care,’ he argued that it is not the right approach to this 'self-imposed, developed crisis.'” Kamidi continues, recounting Carbajal's visit to the US/Mexico entrance in El Passo, Texas. “Carbajal... questioned Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers about the current procedures in place for migrants who come to the border seeking asylum,” but was left "disappointed by the lack of information he was provided, stating that he questioned the officers ‘without sufficient answers.'”
• Disappointed might be the only word Carbajal can muster to describe his feelings toward the US Immigration system. According to Kamidi, “while U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw ordered on Tuesday that the process of family separations be ended and that children be reunited with their families within 30 days, Carbajal said he has not seen any concrete plans to do so." However, Carbajal does not see ICE as directly responsible, rather arguing “that the current immigration system needs to be comprehensively reformed on a national level...only after this reformation will all the issues that fall under the umbrella of illegal immigration be addressed and resolved, he said.”
The Daily Californian: Whereas UCSB analyzed the experience of a Santa Barbara Congressman, Berkeley student Mary Kelly Ford writes of a situation that hits close to home with other students, one in particular.
• According to Ford, “campus junior Luis Mora was taken into custody by ICE... after being held in California Border Patrol detainment for four days.” Mora, a Columbia native, was with his girlfriend, Jaleen Udarbe, upon arrest. “[Mora’s] U.S. visa expired two to three years ago, according to Udarbe… [he] attempted to become a DACA student but was denied.”
• Though initially denied access, he eventually spoke with a lawyer, who recently “tweeted that U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as well as U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, have reached out to ICE on behalf of Mora.
• The lawyer, as well as the attention surrounding the case, comes as a result of the advocacy that has been generated on campus. Ford describes the “social media campaign spearheaded by Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education, or RISE at Berkeley, a campus immigrant rights organization.” In addition to putting Mora in contact with his lawyer, “RISE made posts with the hashtag #FREELUIS and gave instructions on how to call immigration officials.
• There’s no doubt that attending an elite, coastal institution secured for Suarez a significant privilege, though RISE co-chair voices that the case of any immigrant in detention is of pressing importance. “‘I’m hoping for Luis to be free — (as well as) for the community at large to realize how large this is,’ Suárez said. ‘We should be fighting to liberate all people in detention, whether (they have) a degree or not.’
• Berkeley’s Associated Students of the University of California (ASCU) also gave comment regarding Mora’s detainment. ASCU senator, Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff, tells Ford that they are “not shocked that any Black/brown person could find themselves locked behind bars… There is a dehumanization factor that is intertwined within the law and our people find themselves on the wrong side of those laws too often… The massive attention being drawn makes sure those in power understand that we refuse to allow our people to be lost within the system — being lost is too familiar a reality for our community.”
The Bottom Line:
When right-wing political pundit Ann Coulter visited Columbia University for a Q&A, “she warned against the dangers of immigrants voting along the lines of ethnicities rather than actual policies," as stated in the Columbia Spectator. It seems what Coulter and other conservatives fail to grasp is that certain policies, especially immigration, are inevitably written along ethnic and racial lines. The law grows increasingly discriminate the further a person falls from an archetype of the ideal American citizen; a person of color not originally from the US is about as far away as one can get. The presumption that such a person can rightly be stripped of all the American rights we oh so proudly hail is egregious. But despite the stance of powerful, conservative politicians, students continue to perpetuate the importance of the issue, campus news and advocacy groups alike remaining informed and prepared to take action.