Florida, especially South Florida, is a bustling region of immigrants, as one in five residents is an immigrant or born in another country. Of 4.5 million immigrants, only 2.5 million, 57%, are naturalized, as of surveys taken in 2018. With most of the other 2 million immigrants legally in the United States through processes other than naturalization, approximately 656,000 people are estimated to be in Florida illegally.
Established in 2003 to combat security concerns after 9/11 in accordance with the Homeland Security Act, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was designed to “protect America from the cross-border crime and illegal immigration that threaten national security and public safety.” While ICE has been committed to preventing crimes and removing terrorists, the rampant xenophobia and racism that President Donald Trump has elicited has altered ICE’s seemingly central goals.
ICE under President Barack Obama primarily focused on illegal immigrants who were a terroristic threat or had recently migrated, leaving little time for other illegal immigrants. Even then, many immigrant rights campaigners criticized the high rates of the heartless removal of illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, President Trump, within his first week in office, despicably overturned these priorities. This move allows ICE to target all illegal immigrants, regardless of their situations and ties to the United States, and bans migrants from awaiting court proceedings.
ICE officials hold immigrants in migrant detention centers, with horrific conditions, as disease is rampant in the dirty, unorganized buildings. These centers pack children and adults in metal cages, often separating families who do not know when they will be reunited again. There are reports of outbreaks in disease that have led to countless deaths, many due to the fact ICE refused to administer free vaccines to migrants.
As COVID spread over the summer, migrants reported how ICE officials claim that COVID public health measures are not their responsibilities, refusing to wear masks and not maintaining a safe distance. When someone is presumed sick, they are taken into another room and ICE refuses to tell the migrants if the person has died, got deported, or transferred.
Along with the rampant health violations from contaminated food and dirty, cramped living spaces, ICE guards have reportedly brutally sexually harassed women and children in the centers according to immigrant women. Although a high number of these cases remain unreported, often due to fear of deportation or immigrant’s lack of access to file a complaint, with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General received 33,000 complaints between 2010 and 2016. ICE agents foster a horrible community, with many shrugging or ignoring complaints. Just one center began to focus on the sexual assault complaints due to the backlash, yet the investigation came two years after the incidents.
As paralleled with many governmental institutions within the United States, ICE unfairly detains and treats Black immigrants. ICE has 44% of families in detention who are Haitian and a 6,000 higher average bond. As the daughter of two Haitian immigrants, this is devastating. Impoverished, innocent people are escaping dangerous poverty in their hometown only to be forced into cages and treated more poorly than most by self-righteous, despicable, selfish people who oppose immigration.
To protect basic human rights, these ICE containment centers should be abolished. ICE has turned into a physical manifestation of the xenophobia and racism that plagues the United States and is utterly unacceptable. ICE should be doing their jobs in a way that does not infringe on human rights. Immigrant families should not be separated and ICE should focus on immigrants who pose a risk, not just all immigrants in general.
Evidently, citizenship paths should be made easier and more fair. Rather than focus on the deportation and prevention of the arrival of immigrants, the United States should focus more on helping immigrants come legally and improve their lives. In a land where we are all immigrants, the naturalization process should not be more difficult than it has to be.