By Jose Servin
In heart-wrenching news headlines, Texas Border Patrol agents detained Rosamaria Hernandez, a 10-year-old undocumented girl with cerebral palsy, when she was transferred between hospitals to receive emergency gallbladder surgery last week. Despite uproar from immigrant advocates and local leaders, the agency defended its actions, arguing that they don’t use discretion when enforcing federal law. While Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) has a “sensitive locations” policy, Hernandez was in between hospitals, meaning she was just as much a criminal to the federal government as the other 11 million undocumented people living in fear. She is currently in a detention facility, away from her family.
In a different detention facility in Texas, a 16-year-old undocumented girl was able to obtain an abortion after a month-long legal battle that shed light on the conservative tactics used by federal officials to dissuade detained women from having the procedure done, including required counseling at an anti-abortion religious center. Texas attorney general Ken Paxton responded to the decision saying, “Today’s loss of innocent human life is tragic.”
Both of these cases highlight two developments in the struggle for immigrant rights. First, ICE isn’t alone in its agenda to vilify and terrorize the immigrant community. As we see in the Hernandez case and Israel Barrios, the immigrant father detained in Santa Ana who we’ve been demanding that ICE release, Border Patrol is moving further away from “securing” the border between the U.S and Mexico and into our community, which falls under the 100-mile border zone where the agency is granted extra-constitutional powers.
Along with Border Patrol, as we noted in last week’s column, ICE is also working closely with its department of Homeland Security Investigations to target who they detain based on profitability of assets seized – profits that are then split with local police agencies (we’re looking at you, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens). The Department of Homeland Security also takes its share of immigrant oppression through cyber-monitoring tactics that have taken place since the beginning of this month (Hey DHS, if you catch a typo, do me a solid and fix it please).
The second point worth noting, and one that’s especially important in light of the Dream Act and our constant efforts to dispel a toxic “Dreamer” narrative, is that the xenophobic tactics supported and sanctioned by the president and attorney general, carried out by an ever-callous cabal of agencies, have no discretion. In their view, none of us belong here, whether we’re a 10-year-old with cerebral palsy, pregnant teens, valedictorians, fathers, mothers, with or without criminal backgrounds. We are a mass of undesirables to them, and no number of exemplary Dreamers, tallied up tax contributions or clean records, will change the minds of those who choose to blame us for everything from unemployment to the opioid crisis.
What will change their minds, though, is 11 million people united by a common struggle and with equal dignity—regardless of what label society puts on us—demanding legalization without exceptions.