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ICE is kidnapping members of our community: ICE Out Now Press Conference in Grand Rapids

April 25, 2018

Just after noon today, about 25 people gathered in front of the Grand Rapids office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Press Conference was called by Movimiento Cosecha GR and the GR Rapid Response to ICE project, since there has been an increase in ICE activity, including arrests and intimidation.

When I arrived for the press conference, there were two ICE agents wearing bullet proof vests and standing next to white Homeland Security vehicles. One of the ICE agents told us that “they were there to make sure that everyone was safe.” This is what those who critique law enforcement strategy as the management strategy, where cops try to manage what community groups do, always presenting a “we are here to help” posture.

After most people had arrived for the Press Conference, there also appeared members of the GRPD, although they just circled the block a few times to see what was happening.

Part of the reason that this press conference was organized, was due to the fact that ICE activity has increased, but also because the immigrant community has been communicating with Cosecha GR about the concerns they have and wanting to feel safe at ICE event. Gema Lowe, with Cosecha GR, made it clear that the reality is that it is safer for immigrants to participate in Cosecha GR activities, because together they are stronger than any attempt to repress people. She also used language that is usually heard outside of the US, with terms like kidnapping, forced disappearance, along with the idea that those in detention have to pay a ransom in order to get out. Here is a brief video with Gema Lowe speaking to those who came to the press conference.

In addition, Martin, an immigrant who spoke, told those in attendance that he and his family left their country because they believed that they could leave fear behind them, only to then find out that they are also living in fear in the US because the government has failed to adopt just immigration policies. Martin, also encouraged people to come to the May 1st march being hosted by Cosecha GR.

The next speaker was Amy Carpenter, with the GR Rapid Response to ICE project. Amy read a statement in support of immigrants and a pledge from allies that they would do whatever they could to stop ICE from separating families and to support those who have been impacted from ICE arrests. Amy also let people know that the GR Rapid Response to ICE group has a network they can mobilize to try to stop ICE from taking immigrants and to offer a variety of other kinds of support. She stated that if ICE comes to your door, call 211 in Kent County and we will respond as quickly as possible to ICE oppression.

Al Heystek, a pastor with the UCC spoke about the physical and emotional pain that ICE causes when they arrest people and “make children have to witness a parent or another family member be taken away.” Heystek also spoke about the importance of the need for the faith community stand with immigrants and to offer support however they can.

Lastly, Richard Kessler, an immigration attorney spoke about how the current administration might be the worst administration in regards to immigration policy. Kessler said that the current policy is both racist and xenophobic, plus that many of the arrests that ICE make are in violation of the rights of immigrants, regardless if they are documented or not. The immigration lawyer also encouraged people to come to the May 1st march, which would send a loud message that people will fight these unjust policies and that we can win justice for all immigrants.


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