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Holy Shit: Thoughts on the Ionia County Commission meeting about the proposed ICE Detention facility

May 12, 2020

Yesterday, I was on the zoom meeting with the Ionia County Commissioners as they were set to vote on the proposal for a ICE detention facility, a facility that would be run by the group Immigration Centers of America (ICA).

Everyone who spoke during the public comment that I heard was emphatically opposed to the ICE detention center. There was a wide range of objections and talking points against the ICE detention center, most of which were arguments that the immigrant justice movement has been making for years. All of these comments were fabulous!

But……..Holy Shit! Every time one of the commissioners spoke, it was like watching a really bad b-movie. I don’t mean a really bad, it’s so good b-movie, but a really bad, awful b-movie.

The commission chair said that they had received 30 – 40 e-mails, with 5 major themes/questions. One had to do with the conditions of the facility, to which the commission chair simply read the ICA response.

The Commission chair then made the claim that 20% in the federal prison system are “illegals”, most of who are murderers and rapists. Now, this commissioner offer no sources on this claim, but he did say he heard this information after visiting some friends in San Diego. He then acknowledged that the number of undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes was a small percent, but “we need to protect ourselves from them.” Holy Shit!

Another Commissioner then jumped in to say that, “people should come here with proper documentation and a green card. If people are coming here illegally, they shouldn’t be afforded all the rights that people are talking about.” He then went on to say that the commission should talk with ICE officials to get “good information.” Holy Shit!

Yet another commissioner stated that this detention center will be built within a 180 mile radius of Detroit and someone will get the taxes from this, so this is something to consider. Holy shit!

The level of misinformation was astounding and it seemed clear that these commissioners had already made up their minds about this, despite the fact that the opposition to this, at least from those who participated in the zoom call that I heard, were clearly opposed to a new, privately run detention facility.

Their understanding of what ICE does and the realities of what undocumented immigrants face was virtually non-existent. The majority of people who come to the US without documentation do so out of economic and political desperation. In fact, most people who enter the US without documentation at the US/Mexican border, are coming to the US because of the long standing economic and military policies that the US has imposed on Mexico and Central America. I have first hand experience of that reality, with several years of accompaniment work in Mexico and Central America, plus I have a long-standing relationship with many of the undocumented who have come to Grand Rapids over the past 35 years.

Fortunately, the Ionia County Commission did not make a final decision about the proposed ICE detention facility. In light of this, I would be willing to offer my time to provide a larger historical context of US immigration policy, which have been teaching over the past two years – using this popular education tool and all of the reading that comes with it – to the members of the Ionia County Commission. And yes, Holy Shit, I’m serious about this offer.

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