A Weekly Roundup of Politics: ICE raids, Grieving Communities, Jimmy Aldaoud

08.09.2019 Arts & Culture
Ann Lewis
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ICE Raids in Mississippi

A surprise ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raid at multiple poultry processing facilities in Mississippi left the nation stunned on Wednesday as over 680 undocumented people were detained and arrested by the agency. Koch Foods Inc. and Pecos Food Inc. are two of the largest poultry processing companies in the nation and watched as several hundred of their employees walked out of the facility handcuffed with zip ties and onto buses. 

Multiple reports surfaced on Thursday of detained single parents with children who were locked out of their homes after school with nowhere to go. ICE agents claimed that single parents would be released Wednesday evening to care for their children, but several were not. A make-shift shelter was set up by volunteers for children of detained workers awaiting the potential release of their parents. The raid happened to coincide with the state’s first day of school for many children and was the most massive single-state workplace ICE raid in our nation’s history. 

Koch Foods Inc. was required to pay $3.75 million in settlements to its workers last year for discriminatory practices leveraged against Latinas that included sexual and racial discrimination. Many of those detained are part of the United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) which was formed to protect workers’ rights. This is not the first time immigrant workers who have unionized and fought back against unfair working conditions have been targeted by ICE. A similar string of events happened in Salem, Oregon in 2017 after workers at Fresh Mark’s meatpacking plant unionized and reported unsafe working conditions. Shortly after a worker by the name of Domingo Ramos bled to death due to inadequate safety protocol at the plant, ICE officials raided the facilities and arrested 140 people. 

“These raids send a real signal to immigrant workers not to speak up. We feel like these raids enable employers in the most dangerous industry to cut corners and violate labor standards,” said Debbie Berkowitz, who served as chief of staff of OSHA under Obama from 2009 to 2013.

El Paso and Dayton Reel From More Shootings

As the communities of El Paso and Dayton reel from back-to-back mass shootings, President Trump visited and met with survivors this week, facing protests in both cities. The shooting in El Paso took place at a Walmart and was targeted because the shooter wanted to kill Latinx people and counter the “Hispanic invasion of Texas,” which was detailed in his manifesto. 22 people were murdered in the massacre, including 13 Americans (many of Latinx descent), eight Mexicans, and one German man. 9 people died in Dayton, including the shooter’s own sister.

Trump has used the term “invasion” to speak about Latinx people and immigration over two dozen times in the last year. A New York Times analysis found that Trump has purchased over 2,000 ads on Facebook for his re-election campaign that include the term “invasion.” 

The cold shoulder of El Paso and Dayton residents can be attributed to Trump’s hateful, racist, and incendiary rhetoric that many believe are encouraging these shooters to slaughter innocent civilians. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Beto O’Rouke (all Democratic presidential candidates) have all unequivocally called Trump a white supremacist within the last week. 

These massacres seems to be the real-world consequences when a nation’s loudest and most amplified mouth is spilling over with disparaging, dangerous, and racist dialogue.

It should be noted that Trump is married to an immigrant, and is a second-generation American on his father’s side and first-generation on his mother’s. Trump, whose life is a product of immigration only targets non-white countries and ethnicities. He is known for calling Central and South American countries “shithole countries” and enacting an immigration ban on Muslim-majority countries when he first took office. 

Not Enough Aid for Jimmy Aldaoud 

A tragic example of these immigration policies put into place by the Trump Administration is the death of Jimmy Aldaoud. Aldaoud was deported last month to Iraq, a country in which he had never lived. He died this week because he lacked access to the life-saving insulin he needed as a person with diabetes. Born in Greece to Iraqi parents Aldaoud and his family moved to Detroit before he was even a year old. In the past Aldaoud struggled with paranoid schizophrenia, and due to an arrest for stealing some power tools from a garage while homeless, he was eligible for deportation. Iraq has refused to accept deportees from America for years, but to avoid Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries they begrudgingly agreed.

After the agreement, ICE arrested around 100 Iraqis with criminal records, mostly living in Detroit’s Chaldean Catholic community. Aldaoud’s parents fled to Greece to escape religious persecution in Iraq, but because Greece doesn’t adhere to birthright citizenship, it never recognized him as a citizen. So the Trump Administration deported him to Iraq. Aldaoud was never allowed to say goodbye to his family and was dropped in the Shiite Muslim-majority city of Najaf. He did not speak the language, and without resources, he was left to poorly manage his mental health and diabetes. He suffered through homelessness and debilitating physical and psychological anguish before he died from lack of insulin.

Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.

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