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End the ICE Contract campaign continues the fight for Immigrant Justice

January 3, 2019

Members of GR Rapid Response to ICE and Movimiento Cosehca GR attended the Kent County Commission meeting today to continue to call for an end to the contract that the Sheriff’s Department has with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

One of the themes that came up during the public comment was the fact that as of today, there were 271 days remaining on the current Kent County contract with ICE. The contract with ICE had been renewed in 2017 and the document from that renewal clearly states that the contract will expire in September 30th, 2019.

All four of those who spoke during public comment, however, made it clear that the contract needed to be ended now, since there is tremendous harm being inflicted every day on the immigrant community. One member of the affected community switched from English to Spanish during their comments, partly to make a point about how people who do not speak English are left out of the commission meetings, which are conducted entirely in English. Another public comment read testimony from a woman who had her husband picked up by ICE last year.

One additional public comment stayed with a numbers theme and we thought it was powerful enough to reprint in its entirely:

My name is JR martin. i live on Anishinaabe land, sometimes referred to as Kent County.

I’m here again to join my friends and neighbors in demanding an end to the contract between Kent County and ICE. so i want to repeat the number that people have given you: there are 271 days until the contract officially expires. you can end it before then. i also thought we might benefit contextually from some counting in the other direction.

It’s been 9 days since christmas day, when christians celebrate the birth of a refugee child who was later killed by the state, and when, this past year, 8-year-old Felipe Alonzo Gomez died in border patrol custody.

It’s been 26 days since 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin died in border patrol custody.

It’s been 225 days since 20-year-old Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez was shot in the head and killed by a border patrol agent in Texas.

And it’s been 223 days since may 25, 2018, when Roxsana Hernandez, a 33-year-old HIV-positive transgender woman, fleeing violence in Honduras and seeking a better life, died in ICE custody.

each of these deaths was a murder, whether the weapon was a gun or the denial of care and medical services. it’s always been clear that they were murders. but you may have heard, also, about the findings from an independent autopsy conducted in November, which showed that Roxsana Hernandez had been beaten while in ICE custody before her death.

the border is a death-haunted and death-dealing structure. ICE is a death and trauma machine. as of right now, at the start of a new year, that machine is rolling right along, and Kent County is effectively rolling with it.

It’s been 353 days since the journalist Ayesha Siddiqi wrote on twitter in January 2018: “ICE *is* the fascist roundup people imagine as something to anticipate in a worse future. ICE is it. don’t cooperate! don’t let them in if they knock, don’t speak to them if they ask. you decide what you let happen in your neighborhoods. protect your neighbors.”

and that’s all there is. you can end the contract. you decide what happens in your neighborhood. protect your neighbors.

New Commission, Same indifference to the harm being done to the Immigrant community

Most of energy today was directed around the swearing in of two new commissioners and one who retired. There were lots of photo opportunities and a lot of talk about public service. Yet, when it came to the issue of the Kent County contract with ICE, little was said at the end during the miscellaneous portion of the commission meeting.

There was a great deal of talk about diversity, equity and making Kent County a Welcoming community, but these were mere empty platitudes that had no credibility, especially since the affected community and their allies has been calling for an end to the ICE contract since June of last year.

Several commissioners did mention the newly established Immigration Focus Group. The new Kent County Commission Chair said that they hoped to get the focus group off the ground soon. However, this raises numerous questions, like:

  • Who will be on the immigration focus group?
  • Will there be immigrants on the focus group?
  • Will the focus group lead to an end to the ICE contract?

Those with Movimiento Cosecha GR  and GR Rapid Response to ICE did not call for this focus group, rather a call to End the Contract with ICE. ICE continues to do real harm, to traumatize members of the immigrant community and separate families. Thus, end the contract would be a positive step for the county to take in order to build any kind of trust with the immigrant community.

La Lucha Sigue!

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