ICE abuses the legal system

December 18, 2017

J.C. Boyle explains that ICE's ugly tactics can now be seen from coast to coast.

THE RECENT reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) attacks against Genaro Rojas Hernandez and Siham Byah have been horrifying, but there is at least some hope in the community responses to these injustices. Brian Sullivan's news of the public defenders' walkout, in particular, is a promising development.

One of ICE's most insidious tactics this year has been to undermine the last vestiges of trust in the legal process. We've seen it in New York, where ICE arrests people at courthouses. We've seen it in Boston, where they detained Byah after what should have been a routine check-in. We've also seen it here in San Diego, where ICE arrested Sylvia Ocampo Ortiz at her own check-in, and despite community galvanization, deported her a week before her scheduled hearing.

Ocampo is a single mother who had been in the U.S. for 25 years. The sole provider for her four children, she's earned unanimous praise from her neighbors, friends, and the teachers and administrators of her youngest daughter's school. "I don't know how she does what she's able to do," said Diana Grijalva, the principal of Hamilton Elementary, where Ocampo's 8-year-old daughter is a student with special needs. "What better role model could there be?"

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But according to ICE, Ocampo is one of those "criminals" that this country has to get rid of.

In 2008, she pleaded guilty to perjury--her "crime" was in trying to get a driver's license. Although California has since changed the law to allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive, her conviction stands, and immigration authorities, after deporting her husband, allowed her to stay in the country as long as she submitted to semi-annual check-ins. It was during one of these check-ins that she was arrested this fall.

ICE's abuse of the legal system has consequences beyond the families it separates. With entire communities afraid to interact with the police or the courts, people are reporting fewer crimes, reasoning that it might be more tolerable to live with an abuser or a rapist rather than to risk the deportation of victims or witnesses.

Responding to these individual injustices as they occur is important, but ICE is learning how to counter some of these demonstrations. Ocampo's accelerated deportation process may have been calculated to put an end to the protests and petitions.

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The public defenders' walkout in New York should inspire us to respond to ICE's terror with new tactics. We can all see the ways that ICE is disrupting our lives and tearing our communities apart. Let's see more rapid response networks, let's organize more teacher walkouts and strikes in solidarity with their students' parents, and let's have health care workers ban police from hospitals.

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