ICE officials cannot be present in our sanctuary cities — they are not welcome here.
On Jan. 17, SFGate reported that U.S. immigration officials have begun preparing for a major sweep in San Francisco and other Northern California cities in which federal officers are looking to arrest more than 1,500 undocumented people while sending a message that immigration policy will be enforced in the sanctuary state. Thomas Homan — the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE — called for “a 400 percent increase” in these workplace raids. As of today, ICE agents have raided 77 businesses, sweeped 100 7-Eleven stores and arrested 21 people believed to be undocumented immigrants.
Being an undocumented immigrant for the past 18 years in the United States, I understand what comes with living in daily fear of police presence; I know so well the fear of possibly losing my family for the rest of my life. It is destructive to anyone to have the constant fear of deportation and family loss in the back of their head. That is why it is unacceptable to have ICE continue to raid our cities. We stand together unanimously to fight toward having the Bay Area be a collection of sanctuary cities, because our communities are deeply rooted in equity and justice for our people. We strongly believe in this and have fought for our mothers, fathers, friends and selves to be present here, and ICE will not take that away from us.
These spaces are for us to occupy, not for them to gentrify.
What the Donald Trump administration actively dismisses is that our country is built upon the backbones of immigrants, people of color and undocumented folks. Documentation is considered a privilege, as if our country was founded by people other than immigrants themselves. The right to speak about having roots in this land belongs solely to Native people. Yet even they are continuously marginalized by the institutional policies that are implemented by the federal government. If we allow ourselves to be complacent about unethical, unjust policies, this country will be torn apart alongside our ancestors’ labor and their ambitions for our generation and the generations to come. As trailblazers of our time, now more than ever is when we need to act.
The University of California tells us that undocumented students of all ethnicities and nationalities can find a safe environment and supportive community within this institution. Why then are they allowing undocumented immigrants to be detained and parted from their families without any motion of advocacy on their front as a collective institution to get these people out and back to their regular lives? Why then do I and my undocumented peers not feel safe on this campus?
It is because we are not safe on this campus. And under these circumstances, we cannot continue to choose to be reactive over being proactive.
Now more than ever, we need to question the status quo. Who are we as humans if we are complacent about ICE destroying the lives of those around us? I could not afford to lose my family, and I know there are so many undocumented people out there who cannot afford the same devastation. It is on us to understand that experiencing the comfort and security of family is a human right that cannot be stripped by the violent power of any government. This goes beyond politics and policies; it is a moral decision rooted in human values and ethics. The lives of 11 million undocumented people are being destroyed by these ICE raids. The fate of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children are uncertain and threatened. Time has run out. We cannot afford to have another life ruined by these ruthless raids.
Let us be reminded that government and policies are human-made and rooted in the morality of amoral laws. Our cities in the Bay Area are currently being attacked by a policy that wants to deport people who have contributed to this country with their loyal labor and earnest efforts. We must stand arm in arm with the members of our communities who are being detrimentally affected by these ICE raids. My family, like all other undocumented families, needs the support of our allies so that we can continue our lives as students, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.
Simply put, if not us, then who? Elevate our voices; elevate our work.