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Movements and Moments: How we are winning the Fight Against the ICE in Kent County Part II

January 28, 2019

Last week, we posted Part I of this story, providing an analysis of what Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE has been doing to fight the presence of ICE in Kent County.

In Part I, we focused primarily on the campaign to end the contract between the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and ICE. We framed the fight as taking advantage of moments to build the anti-ICE movement, specifically by bookending the national outrage over immigrant children in cages in June of 2018 and the decision by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department to change their policy on holding people at the jail for ICE.

Last Thursday, Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE declared that the change in policy by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, wherein, they would require a judicial warrant in order to hold people in the jail for ICE. This effectively made the contract meaningless, since it gutted the essence of the contract between ICE and Kent County.

What we wanted to reflect on today is what happened at the Kent County Commission meeting last Thursday and why we should never rely on systems of power to initiate the kind of change we are calling for……..collective liberation.

“Silence is the Voice of Complicity”     Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Roughly 20 people who have been involved in the effort to end the contract between ICE and Kent County, attended the Kent County Commission meeting last Thursday to provide one last opportunity for commissioners to publicly declare that they supported an end to the contract with ICE.

However, before public comment was provided, the Kent County Sheriff did speak to why she made the decision to require ICE to provide a judicial warrant if they wanted the county to hold people. This outcome, as we noted last week, is the direct result of 7 months of constant pressure being applied by Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE to the Kent County government, using a variety of tactics, culminating in the national news coverage of the ICE detention of a US citizen and former Marine.

Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE wanted to provide the commissioners and the county administrators one last opportunity to save face and to publicly declare their support for a formal end to the contract with ICE. Several members of both groups spoke during public comment and they brought with them a copy of an oversized resolution that they could sign and thus, publicly declare a call for the formal end to the contract.

The commissioners were invited to sign the document. There was nothing but silence from that elected body. There are several things I want to look at based on the reaction from the commissioners.

First, those of us who were involved in this campaign to end the contract have been coming to the commission meetings since June of 2018. We have shared with them dozens of specific examples of how immigrant families have been separated because of ICE actions in Kent County and we discussed the trauma that this harm has inflicted. More importantly, there have been numerous immigrants, some who have been impacted by ICE violence, who spoke directly to the Kent County Commissioners, yet the commission failed to act.

Second, after last Thursday’s Kent County Commission meeting, one commissioner did approach members of Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response, but not on the matter of signing the letter or thanking the groups for the dedication and commitment to fighting this injustice. Instead, the county commissioner scolded the group for not standing during the prayer and the pledge of allegiance, which happens at the beginning of every commission meeting. At one point, this commissioner even referred to this behavior as that of a rebellious teenager. This was just another example of West Michigan Nice and White Privilege. Those of us who do not stand during the prayer or the pledge of allegiance do so out of a deep conviction, not because of some adolescent rebellion. Christian prayers should NEVER accompany government functions, since it is a clear violation of the separation between church and state. In addition, not standing for the pledge of allegiance is related to not wanting to follow blind nationalism, not wanting pledge to the same state, which condones the violence and harm done to the immigrant community by ICE. Standing or not standing for ceremonial formalities is irrelevant. The County Commission claims they represent the people and their concerns, but it seems that this only happens when they determine that those concerns are worthy of their time.

The third, and final point, I want to make here about what happened at the Kent County Commission meeting last Thursday, is that it further demonstrated why our collective theory of change puts faith in the power of people/social movements and not in systems of power like the Kent County Commission. We won without their approval or their commitment to reducing harm against the immigrant community. We won because of the collective efforts and commitment by a social movement that doesn’t rely on systems of power, but on the radical imagination of people, the demonstration of solidarity with the immigrant community and the revolutionary love that we have with each other.

The Fight Against ICE continues…….

While we took a moment to celebrate the end of the contract between ICE and Kent County, we know that the struggle continues. ICE is deeply embedded in our community and we plan to fight them until they leave the county. You can see from the map below, the various ways that ICE operates in Kent County, where their offices are, which companies have contracts with them and other relationships.

Just last Saturday, some 30 people braved the cold weather to publicly denounce the law firm (Honigman LLC), which is representing Immigration Centers of America, the for profit private company that builds detention facilities across the county for ICE. This effort kicked off a new statewide campaign to prevent the construction of a new ICE detention facility in Ionia. We invite you to join us in this ongoing fight against ICE in Kent County. Just go to the Movimiento Cosecha GR and the GR Rapid Response to ICE Facebook pages to get information about upcoming actions and how to get involved.

La Lucha Sigue!!!

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