We'll fight for Alex, Kike and Zully

Supporters of three Vermont labor activists who were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rallied on March 28 outside a Boston court building before bond hearings were held for the three. Zully Palacios and Kike Balcazar were both freed on $2,500 bond. Outrageously, the judge denied bond for Alex Carrillo because of a DUI charge that has already been dismissed. The campaign to release Carrillo and fight the deportations of all three activists will continue.

This article is based on a speech that Scarlett Moore gave to a meeting of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in Burlington after the three organizers were detained.

Protesters on the march in Boston to demand the release of three immigrant activists (Jesse Costa | WBUR)Protesters on the march in Boston to demand the release of three immigrant activists (Jesse Costa | WBUR)

IMMIGRATION AND Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested Cesar Alexis Carrillo Sanchez on March 15 outside of Vermont's Chittenden County Courthouse, in front of his wife, who is an American citizen, despite the fact that they have a 4-year-old daughter and his wife will soon be having their second child.

Two days later, Jose Enrique Balcazar Sanchez, also known as Kike, and Zully Palacios Rodriguez were arrested by undercover ICE agents as they left the Migrant Justice offices in downtown Burlington. Alex and Kike are from Mexico. Zully is from Peru.

All three are members of Migrant Justice, none have criminal records, and all are being detained pending deportation. Despite their lack of criminal histories, it is believed that ICE has had them under surveillance for a significant period of time. It is no coincidence that human rights activists are the first victims of Trump's deportation policies in Vermont.

In the words of Will Lambek, a Migrant Justice staff member, "We have a rogue ICE agency here in the state that is targeting community leaders."

This isn't an isolated incident, and these repressive arrests are hardly unique to the new administration. Vermont's farmworkers have been arrested under the Obama administration, too, which claimed to pursue a "felons not families" policy, but deported more than 2 million people and paved the way for Trump's new policies.

By now, we've lived through two months of the Trump administration, and we have felt so many attacks on immigrants' rights, women's rights, trans rights and almost every other aspect of our humanity that we barely remember the first few days of executive orders way back in January. With the chaos of the Muslim ban and the ensuing protests, a lot of orders went under our radars, or at least were not the focus of major social struggles at the time.

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FIVE DAYS after the inauguration and two days before the first Muslim ban, Trump signed an executive order titled "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States" that, in a nutshell, drastically expanded the powers of the Department of Homeland Security and ICE. The order states:

Tens of thousands of removable aliens have been released into communities across the country, solely because their home countries refuse to accept their repatriation. Many of these aliens are criminals who have served time in our federal, state and local jails. The presence of such individuals in the United States, and the practices of foreign nations that refuse the repatriation of their nationals, are contrary to the national interest.

Among other things, it authorizes the hiring of 10,000 more immigration enforcement officers, encourages the deputizing of other law enforcers by ICE, argues that sanctuary jurisdictions are working against our national security and therefore should be ineligible for federal funds, calls for weekly updates to a database of criminal activities undertaken by undocumented immigrants and establishes new enforcement priorities for ICE that essentially give agents the individual right to determine who is considered a criminal.

The rhetoric surrounding this policy is one of improving national security, preventing criminal activity and keeping jobs available for American workers; but this is just smoke and mirrors.

The truth is that the capitalist class needs our labor, whether we are legally American citizens or not. So by pitting so-called Native workers against immigrant workers, we are prevented from organizing across cultural and linguistic boundaries to work together in all of our own best interests.

If no one besides immigrant workers themselves are lobbying for their human rights, then big agricultural industries can use their political advantage to continue paying far below the minimum wage, neglecting workers' rights to days off or medical care and preventing them from access to public benefits we should all have a right to.

Meanwhile, nativist members of the working class are too scared of low-wage immigrant workers taking their jobs to direct their anger to the capitalist class is oppressing and exploiting them as well. We are carefully directed away from the understanding that workers rights are human rights, whether we are from the U.S., Mexico, Bangladesh or anywhere else.

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TRUMP'S PLAN probably isn't to deport 11 million people nationwide or all of Vermont's 1,500 migrant farmworkers, whose labor is necessary for American capitalists' profit margins.

But you can bet that enough people will be abducted and deported that every single worker without documents to prove American citizenship will be scared to death of any law enforcement official, and you can bet that that fear will be used to prevent complaints on the job and repress activist movements across the country.

Proof of this is practically written into the executive order, particularly in Section 5, which describes who can be arrested and deported by ICE. Every word is a blatant attack on the presumption of innocence and whatever semblance of justice that the Department of Homeland Security pretended to have.

You can be arrested if you have ever been convicted of any criminal offense, have been charged with any criminal offense (even if you haven't been convicted), have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense (even if you've never been charged), have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency (many undocumented workers need to use fake papers to find employment), have abused any program related to receipt of public benefit, are subject to a final order of removal but have not complied with a legal obligation to depart the United States, or in the judgment of an immigration officer pose a risk to public safety or national security.

When you give ICE agents the right to decide who is a criminal and who is not, without any due process of law, you aren't establishing a justice system. You are establishing a system by which opposition to the regime can be silenced, organizations to protect immigrants can be dismantled, those who have the guts to stand up for their own human rights can be indefinitely separated from their friends and loved ones and the capitalist system can be perpetuated with as little interference as possible.

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KIKE, ZULLY and Alex are not criminals. They are activists. Migrant Justice plays an enormous role in the Burlington community, and they offer the strongest representation that migrant workers in this state have access to.

Kike helped write the impartial policing law that is going before the Vermont legislature, was a key creator of the Milk with Dignity Campaign, was on the Vermont Attorney General's immigration taskforce, and was about to go on a speaking tour to advocate for migrant workers' rights and the Milk with Dignity campaign.

Zully was a key organizer of the campaign to free Victor Diaz, a fellow Migrant Justice activist who was almost deported under the previous administration. The arrests of last week are nothing if not a targeted effort by ICE to dismantle the Migrant Justice organization, undermine the struggle for undocumented workers rights and in doing so attempt to dismantle the working class's ability to emancipate itself from an exploitative system.

Whether you were born in the U.S. or not, we all have a vested interest in standing up for Alex, Kike and Zully.

Last Saturday, an action in Burlington called for their release, as did actions at ICE offices in Williston and St. Albans earlier. Other actions will be taking place leading up to International Workers Day on May 1, hopefully in collaboration with local organizing forces like the ISO and the Peace and Justice Center of Burlington.

It wasn't a single judge that stopped Trump's Muslim ban. It was thousands of people in the streets and occupying airports. It wasn't a kindhearted politician who established the DACA program. It was a campaign of undocumented students' protests during Obama's second campaign cycle. Public action freed Victor Diaz last year in Vermont.

Success isn't certain, but we have to remember that we do have real power when we take to the streets. When we free Alex, Zully and Kike, we aren't just freeing three valued community leaders. We are working to free ourselves.