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Government Sources Yes, Community Voices No: More ICE Arrests in Grand Rapids

December 11, 2017

A Media Release from Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) from this past Friday begins by saying: 

A Mexican national in the country illegally, who has a prior conviction for assault on a law officer, is among 27 foreign nationals taken into custody during a four-day operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this week in western Michigan, targeting at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants and other immigration violators.

Such statements from ICE are standard, as they want to communicate to the news media and to the public at large that what they are doing is to, “focus its enforcement resources on individuals who pose a threat to national security, public safety and border security.

These media releases from ICE always make sure that they highlight the “worst” cases of immigration violations and in this case it was a Mexican national who had a prior conviction for assault on a law officer.

However, the reality is that most people that ICE has been targeting are people who entered or re-entered the US without documentation. There are many others with minor offenses, like driving without a license and other misdemeanor charges. For the most part, ICE is not arresting people who are a threat to national security. The people being arrested by ICE are often primary income earners with families and people who do work in the service sector, like migrant workers, food packers, janitors and restaurant workers.

This view that immigrants are portrayed as dangerous criminals is a strategy that was recently being promoted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). An article published in October by the independent publication, The Intercept, which included declassified e-mails from DHS, begins by saying: 

A directive to immigration officials across the country to try to portray undocumented immigrants swept up in mass raids as criminals came directly from then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, The Intercept has learned.

Unfortunately, when ICE raids, the public will rarely get a perspective outside of government sources. As we have reported on in the past, the local news media relies almost exclusively on the information provided to them by the Department of Homeland Security. Here is the ICE Media Release, which is repeated in one form or another by MLive, WOOD TV 8, WXMI 17 and WZZM 13. The TV stations don’t have any video, since none was provided to them by ICE and only MLive has a picture (here on the right), which they sourced as being from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

What this means is that the public only gets to hear what government sources have to say and those sources are not questioned or challenged. In addition, the public is not provided any commentary from those who were arrested, their family members, immigration organizations or members of the immigrant community.

Since the news media recycles the perspective of ICE on these arrests, the public rarely  is provided with information on immigration policy, the feat that these raids create in the community and how is impacts immigrant families.

In addition, since the news media does not question or challenge ICE officials, there are no follow up stories or investigation into the policies and practices of ICE. The news media could cite a new report from Human Rights Watch that was released last week, which challenged the ICE raids narrative. 

Another simple connection on this issue would be for local news media to look at the upcoming vote that will impact DACA recipients and their families. However, such stories are not likely to appear in local news sources and we end up with only a very bias government perspective.

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