Imagine sitting on your couch, relaxing after a hard day’s work, when all of a sudden you receive a call from the Department of Homeland Security. They inform you that your nephew has been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and they need you to become his sponsor in order to release him to you from the immigration detention center. Would you?
That’s exactly the scenario a man named Edwin from Kansas City had to face this summer. According to an article published by the N.M. Political Report, written by ProPublica reporter Hannah Dreier, Edwin decided he couldn’t leave his nephew stranded in a detention center. Little did Edwin know that choosing to take in his nephew would result in him getting summoned by ICE for an interview about federal charges of visa fraud, conspiracy and human smuggling.
However, Edwin isn’t the only one having to face this overwhelming situation, due to a new ICE initiative named the “Surge Initiative.” In an article written by Samantha Michaels for Mother Jones magazine in June, ICE officials said the new initiative “is intended to disrupt human smuggling networks.”
Since the initiative began in June, more than 400 “sponsors” have been arrested and face charges varying from civil and criminal immigration violations to federal smuggling crimes. To push it even further, the initiative targets not only sponsors of immigrant children, but any undocumented immigrants encountered during the operations, which ICE classifies as “collateral arrests.” Convenient, right?
This is not the first time ICE used immoral tactics to assist in identifying and arresting undocumented people in the country. A few months back, ICE agents started going into courthouses and asking people about their immigration status, and making arrests.
There is plenty of “collateral damage” from this initiative, including a reluctance to sponsor an immigrant child being held in a detention center. In the N.M. Political Report article, a former ICE /Homeland Security Investigations special agent and supporter of the “Surge Initiative” stated, “The idea is to have a deterrent effect, so when a teenager says, ‘Uncle, I can pay my own way, but can I stay with you?’ the uncle is going to say, ‘No way.’ ”
Many of the children immigrating to the United States are doing so to escape the day-to-day crime and violence they face in their countries of origin. Now imagine being one of those detained children hoping to escape the violence and crime in their county, and ending up having to “snitch out” your next of kin living in the United States. Think of all the psychological damage this can cause these young people, knowing they were the cause of their family members getting deported.
ICE claims this initiative is bringing to justice undocumented parents and guardians who allegedly paid smugglers to bring their children to the U.S., putting them in grave danger, but the reality of it is that they are using these children as a tool for more deportations. They are using these children as bait, not taking into consideration all the damage this can do to families. Let’s just say you do decide you can’t leave your sibling’s child to their own luck and become their sponsor, resulting in your deportation. What happens to your family here in the States? Assuming, of course, that they weren’t a “collateral arrest.” Situations like this are only putting more pressure on the foster care system.
Let’s go back to the scenario at the beginning. Knowing what consequences you can face, would you choose to become your nephew’s sponsor, like Edwin did for his, or let him stay in the detention center and ultimately be sent back to the crime-ridden country from which he was trying to flee?