Madison raises its voice against ICE

June 28, 2018

Thomas Scheevel and Scot McCullough report from Wisconsin on a march to reunite families and abolish ICE that drew more than 1,000 people.

NEARLY 1,000 people marched through a downtown Madison, Wisconsin, on a sunny June 23 to demand the reunification of immigrant children with their families.

The spirited march took place a few days after Trump’s executive order ending the separation of families detained at the border, indicating the depth of the outrage at the Trump administration’s callousness toward immigrant families.

“No more children in a cage, we are here to show our rage!” went a popular chant, drawing attention to 2,300 children already taken from their parents, whose plight was not addressed by Trump’s executive order. It wasn’t until June 25 that a federal court ordered government agencies to reunite all separated children with their families within 30 days.

Rallying against Trump's attacks on immigrant families in Madison, Wisconsin
Rallying against Trump's attacks on immigrant families in Madison, Wisconsin (ISO-Madison | Facebook)

In any case, Trump’s executive order to lock children and their families in the same cages simply led many to redirect their anger toward the institution putting them there — Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Formed in 2003, ICE is the second-largest federal police force in the U.S. During the past three administrations, it has been responsible for enforcing increasingly harsh border security and immigrant detention policies.

Long known to immigrant communities as an arbitrary and violent force with the power to punish immigrants for speaking out, ICE is now also synonymous with the publication of heart-wrenching photos and audio of children being imprisoned in dog cages and former big-box stores earlier this month.

Given this context, the cry to “Abolish ICE” was taken up enthusiastically by the crowd.

THE RALLY — organized by the International Socialist Organization in cooperation with the Democratic Socialists of America and Socialist Alternative, and endorsed by 10 other local organizations — drew people from all walks of life, including people new to political action.

For many, the sight of children in cages provoked a change in the way they looked at politics. As one newly minted activist put it: “This was a wake-up call. I guess you could say that this is what radicalized me.”

Speakers from the front stressed the need to turn this radicalization into organization. As Michael Billeaux, a member of the International Socialist Organization, said: “Organizing and attending rallies is a crucial part of any movement, but a winning movement needs organizations, and organizations need people.”

Among the speakers at the rally was the family of Franco Ferreyra, a Milwaukee man detained by ICE on June 11 after spending most of his life living in Wisconsin. Ferreyra moved to Milwaukee in 2001 when he was just 13 and was taken by surprise when he was detained at a regular check-in.

As Alysha Ferreyra, Franco’s ex-wife and mother to three of his children, said: “Franco has been following all the rules.” Yet this was no protection from the whims of ICE agents who kicked out his lawyer and tossed him in jail.

As the protest made its way to the Wisconsin State Capitol, attention turned to Gov. Scott Walker’s decision to deploy members of the Wisconsin National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border to assist ICE, even as the despicable conditions that children were being subjected to became well known.

Scott’s dispatch of the National Guard was a clear message of contempt for the humanity of immigrants — and Madison had a clear message in return: Stop.

In addition to calling on the return of the Wisconsin National Guard and for abolishing ICE, the rally was also a fundraiser that collected nearly $1,200 by passing collection bins.

This money was split between the family of Franco Ferreyra, which is struggling to cover legal fees and to support themselves while Franco is in jail, and the James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Church, a local congregation building a sanctuary space at its church, complete with a bedroom and bathroom.

AS MORE politicians, organizations and individuals add their voices to the chorus demanding abolition of ICE, the question becomes how.

Though there were calls to vote out the Republicans in November, everyone agreed that November is not soon enough for the families torn apart by the U.S. government. Our protests and occupations have already made the Trump administration flinch. It will be through organizing these actions into a sustained movement that we will be able to tear down the machinery that terrorizes immigrant communities.

In recent days, the call to abolish ICE is starting to show results: two days after the rally, the office of Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan announced that he would be introducing legislation to fold ICE.

It’s astonishing how quickly what just a couple months ago would have been considered a radical demand has moved from the margins to the halls of Congress.

It’s crucial, however, that activists continue building outrage in the streets, which has been crucial to arriving at this point in the first place.

Pocan’s plan calls for “a commission to provide recommendations to Congress on how the U.S. government can implement a humane immigration enforcement system that upholds the dignity of all individuals, while transferring necessary functions to other agencies.”

Yet we know that there is a fundamental contradiction between immigration enforcement and human dignity. We know that there are no “necessary functions” of ICE. Those who attended the rally did too, chanting “No borders, no nations, stop deportations!” It’s the task of our movement to keep this goal in sight as we build rallies and marches in the here and now.

The next chapter of this fight is already happening. In addition to countless actions in recent weeks, there will be a national day of action on June 30. As demands for ICE to be disbanded gain traction, we need to remember the lessons of past movements for immigrant rights: When we allow the rights of some immigrants to be traded for promises of security for others, we lose.

We should demand an end to ICE — not just for the DREAMers or DACA recipients, but for all the undocumented.

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