On Wednesday Aug 8, 2018 one of the larger raids in ICE history took place in O’Neill, Nebraska and surrounding areas, sweeping up 133 people and ripping them out of their communities. There are many news sources out there that can report the details better than we can. However, we at Seeing Red want to provide some context to explain the many ways that this event is despicable, immoral, and unethical.
#1 IT’S INHUMANE
First and foremost, these are human beings, torn away from their lives, their families and children, neighbors and loved ones in an instant—all for the crime of not having proper paperwork—some because there ISN’T a straightforward path towards legal status. These people were held at least 8 hours with no food, in tents without air conditioning, in Grand Island on a hot August day. Many of them also leave behind children who will go to bed tonight not knowing if they will see their parents again. As we all found out in the border separation crisis, separating children and parents has long-term negative outcomes on kids.
#2 PUNISHING VICTIMS
These workers were victimized—but the people who were taking advantage of vulnerable people—what will happen to them? The Omaha World Herald reports that some of these “illegal workers brought to the area were required to pay a fee to cash their paychecks, have taxes deducted that were not paid to the government, and were coerced into remaining quiet about the criminal activity.” Sounds eerily like human trafficking, doesn’t it? Yet the immigrant workers paid the highest prices- both before and after the raid.
Their only crime is wanting to work—they are doing menial labor for poor pay in an industry where native born, white, Americans no longer will work. The price of your cheap tomato is oppressive working conditions and under-compensated labor of immigrants. Without these immigrants, agriculture in the U.S. doesn’t function and the economies in Nebraska and Iowa would suffer. And yet the Trump administration and its supporters call for deporting the people who suffer so we can eat. Let that sink in… Meanwhile in Nebraska, the governor is literally trying to kill a man with illegally gained and untested drugs, and yet immigrants are the problem in our state?
#4 THIS IS DONE ON YOUR BEHALF
It appears that your state tax dollars and local tax dollars were used to help destroy these lives. The special-agent-in-charge said that “Between 350 and 400 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers worked together on the arrests”. Why should you care? Because what’s done with your money is done in your name. If you don’t like it, your best shot is to apply pressure for changes locally, where your voice has more power. Other states and cities have already passed laws to begin to limit law enforcement cooperation with immigration authorities.
#5 COMMUNITY DEVASTATION
Communities like O’Neill will face long-lasting devastation. The community will suffer from a lack of community and trust. Local business owners will see reduced income. Cities will collect less sales tax. Children will suffer. After the 2006 ICE raid in Grand Island, a study showed numerous lingering effects on Grand Island children of all backgrounds, including lingering mental health problems.
#6 UNFAIR EXEMPTIONS
Don’t forget—all of this is led by a President who swindled his way into getting his own immigrant wife a “genius visa” (New York Times, March 4, 2018). Apparently, the only immigrants who can stay are the ones who are sleeping with the president. *shudder* (and their parents !)
#7 NOT UNCOMMON
This isn’t a one time event— it’s been occurring nationwide. The problems and the heartaches Nebraskans experience in the aftermath of such raids will continue to be replicated until we step up to the voting booth and ONLY elect people for state AND national level offices who share our horror regarding these actions and are willing to work for massive immigration reform. Our best chance to make change in Nebraska is to oust many Republican incumbents. We need Bob Krist elected as Governor; we need Jessica McClure for House of Representatives Dist 1; we need Jane Raybould for Senate; we need Paul Theobald for House of Representatives Dist 3; and we need state senators who agree with them that these actions must be stopped.
Thankfully, some groups of early leaders have already emerged.
Group #1 SENATORS MORFELD AND VARGAS
State Senators Adam Morfeld and Tony Vargas have said they are “considering legislation that prohibits the use of state and local law enforcement in these harmful, immoral and destructive raid.” Contact them and let them know that you fully support this idea: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Group #2 NEBRASKA CITIZENS
Citizens of O’Neill, including the local Catholic church, have protested at the courthouse and have spread their message of immigrant support to the media. This city is a proud town with Irish immigrant roots and some of them are determined to remind everyone of this.
Group #3 OUR SCHOOLS
The O’Neill schools took in children and family members who needed a safe place to be in the aftermath of the raid, providing guidance counselors as well. School staff called an estimated 60-80 affected families to assure that kids were with an adult. The school also connected with legal aid representatives and had reached out to Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel, who was Grand Island Superintendent during the 2006 ICE raid and has been vocal about the hardships that were placed upon children (Lincoln Journal Star, August 8, 2018).
We at Seeing Red commend these leaders and support all the hard work they are doing to oppose the political violence wreaking such damage on our state. You can help too. Nebraska Appleseed has some action steps here. You can join the protest TODAY, THURSDAY AUGUST 9th in GRAND ISLAND AT ADRIAN SMITH’S OFFICE (and really every day as long as it takes to fix this shit and/or he loses in a land slide to Paul Theobald). You can donate to Nebraska Appleseed or other groups providing legal and other aid to detained immigrants and their families.