Tina Vasquez is the immigration reporter at Rewire.News, a journalism nonprofit that specializes in reporting on reproductive rights and social justice issues. Formerly, she was an associate editor at Black Girl Dangerous and has contributed to The Guardian, Jezebel, Bitch Magazine, and Al Jazeera. (May 2018)
There is a common belief that immigration reporting humanizes immigrants or inspires empathy. But I’m beginning to wonder if we’re simply a country desensitized to these horrors, incapable of seeing these “others” as human. My perspective, as an immigration reporter, is that if you haven’t been moved by now by the many reports of abuses, injustices, in-custody deaths, and bodies that have turned up in the borderlands, then you cannot be moved. The argument that people need to see actual dead brown and black bodies to understand injustice against people of color betrays a gruesome prejudice—and our country’s history shows that these sorts of images are, in any case, unlikely to mobilize action.
There were nationwide demonstrations in June, and placards calling to “Abolish ICE” were ubiquitous. The movement to abolish ICE has repeatedly been dismissed as little more than the left’s “new rallying cry,” accompanied by the accusation that the slogan lacks “a real plan.” But there are existing and emerging models for what it looks like to chip away at ICE and put something else in its place: there can be a community-based alternative to a violent immigration system.
Newly empowered, ICE is newly emboldened. Despite the many failings of Trump’s White House, the administration has delivered on one of the president’s primary goals: mass deportations. Trump is giving ICE the tools, financial resources, and presidential backing to go after immigrant communities as never before. While John Kelly and Stephen Miller may be the main architects of Trump’s nativist anti-immigration policy, they are not its most important and powerful supporters. For that, look to the labor union that represents ICE’s agents.