ICE is increasingly targeting migrant labor leaders for arrest and deportation. Their intent is to spread terror and discourage organization.
Emboldened by President Trump’s unyielding anti-immigrant invective, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has carried on tradition in 2018, sabotaging immigrant communities across the country at a breakneck pace. In a coordinated campaign to suppress the constitutionally protected speech of immigrants, ICE has been targeting and arresting immigrant activists across the country, continuing decades of hostility toward progressive activists of color.
Those targeted in 2018 alone include Ravi Ragbir, director of the New Sanctuary Coalition and an outspoken leader for immigrants in New York and nationwide; Daniela Vargas, arrested in Mississippi moments after she spoke at a press conference to denounce the arrests of her brother and father; Claudia Rueda, whom ICE detained after she publicly advocated for the release of her mother, whom ICE had previously arrested; and Maru Mora-Villalpando, a nationwide immigrant rights leader and a Washington-based community stalwart.
ICE’s anti-speech program is not limited to individual, nationally known activists. In one of its more insidious attacks, the subject of a Center for Constitutional Rights’ (CCR) First Amendment lawsuit, ICE has set its sights on Migrant Justice, a Vermont-based collective of predominantly migrant dairy workers. Migrant Justice has suffered the retaliatory immigration arrests of dozens of leaders and members over the last four years, often in the aftermath of successful organizing campaigns and events.
In targeting Vermont migrant laborers, ICE is targeting among the most vulnerable. Isolated on remote farms scattered across the state, dairy workers operate in dangerous, sometimes life-threatening conditions, and historically have relied on their employers for their basic needs. It is not unlike feudal-era serfdom or the company towns of old. Migrant Justice sprung up to meet this dire need for labor organizing, and follows the path laid down by Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, the two titans of the Chicano movement and co-founders of the National Farm Workers Association (now the United Farm Workers).