3 Ways On-the-Ground Immigration Activists Fight ICE Amid Ongoing Raids

As the Trump administration has escalated attacks against immigrant communities, especially undocumented immigrants, so too have these communities and their allies increased their responses. Repression against immigrants is by no means new, but the accelerated and rapidly changing anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric doled out by Trump and his right-wing allies have led to a much larger and more visible show of support for imperiled immigrants.

Between fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the U.S. government deported more than a quarter-million undocumented immigrants, a figure Trump has repeatedly promised would rise to “millions.” Further, a new Trump policy will radically alter the role of “expedited removal,” a rapid-deportation method that has previously only been used by a Customs and Border Patrol agent or an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer. Now, ICE agents will be able to use expedited removal for any undocumented immigrant anywhere in the country. Clearly, there’s a huge need to act in defense of people who are vulnerable to deportation and arrest.

Defense of immigrant rights has taken many forms, including rapid response tactics that provide fast support at the scene of ICE activity, support for immigrants traveling through the desert and at the U.S.-Mexico border, and houses of worship providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants at immediate risk of deportation. Read more here about some of the direct-impact forms of support immigrant communities and their allies are working on.

Border and Desert Support Are Crucial — and Dangerous

There’s an urgent need to provide life-saving support to immigrants before they reach the U.S.-Mexico border, a journey that is long and very dangerous because of the desert terrain and anti-immigrant policies in Mexico as well as the U.S. Each year, hundreds of migrants die in the desert while attempting to make it to the U.S., necessitating continuous aid. For many years, humanitarian aid workers have provided vital supplies, especially water, for people making this arduous trip.

One of the groups that have been providing aid in the desert long-term is Humane Borders, an entirely volunteer-operated non-profit organization that supplies water stations for immigrants in the Sonoran desert. While anti-immigrant policies continue to make the trek to the southern U.S. border increasingly perilous for immigrants, forcing people to travel through brutal stretches of the desert, the group has received “an amazing outpouring of support from around the nation, people wanting to volunteer,” says Rebecca Fowler, administrative manager for Humane Borders. “Our [volunteer] calendars were full up through July and all summer… that’s been very heartening,” she adds.

Still, the water stations Humane Borders maintains have frequently been the object of sabotage by those who oppose immigrant rights. In early August, far-right conspiracy theorist Michael Lewis Arthur Meyer was arrested for allegedly damaging Humane Borders’ water tanks. “He was responsible for about 2,000 worth of damage to our tanks, and he would actually steal our water barrels, too,” Fowler explains. But the vandalism has not deterred the humanitarian efforts. “We need to have water out there. Something needs to happen so people aren’t dying in the desert and that’s why our efforts are so needed.”

No More Deaths, another humanitarian group in southern Arizona that launched in 2004, has a number of dedicated volunteers who leave supplies like water, food, socks, blankets, and other supplies in stretches of the desert where immigrants are forced to travel. Last year, No More Deaths volunteer Scott Warren was arrested and slapped with felony charges for placing water in a particularly brutal portion of the Sonoran Desert that is a federally protected wilderness area.

In June, a jury couldn’t decide whether or not Warren was actually guilty of any crimes for providing aid, but the government is continuing to pursue charges. The criminalization of humanitarian aid workers “is only a reflection of the escalation against undocumented communities,” Maria Rodriguez, a volunteer for No More Deaths who gave comment using a pseudonym, tells Allure. “It actually doesn’t compare to what people are experiencing under Border Patrol and ICE enforcement,” she adds.

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