Mass deportations became a routine occurrence under the Obama administration. According to a report from the Miami Herald, during the first seven years of Obama’s presidency “more than 2.7 million foreign nationals were deported.”
From Jan. 20, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2015, nearly 2.8 million undocumented immigrants were deported. Among his other violent legacies, Obama deported more people than any other president in American history, leading to him being referred to in some activist circles as the “deporter-in-chief.”
But now it seems that Donald Trump may deport even more than Obama. An increasing number of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids across the United States have undocumented immigrants fearing for not just their livelihoods, but even their lives. The raids have sparked protests in a number of major U.S. cities, including New York City and Los Angeles.
It isn’t enough that undocumented immigrants face the reality of being deported without trial or reason—their trek across their border alone is incredibly painful and sometimes fatal. In southern California, there have been at least 450 bodies found along the border since the 1990s. Most of them were immigrants.
In southern Texas, near the state’s border with Mexico, dozens of bodies have been discovered in mass graves. These immigrants were found buried in trash bags, shopping bags, body bags or just left as they are and thrown in with the rest. The bodies were buried between 2005 and 2009.
ICE recently detained Sara Beltrán Hernández, an asylum seeker from El Salvador who was hospitalized for a brain tumor. Hernández was kidnapped from a hospital in Texas against her will and taken to a detention center, where she began to suffer from the effects of her tumor.
In another recent case, a father of three who had been working as a gardener in California faced his third deportation, having already been deported from the U.S. on two previous occasions. The undoubtedly painful reality of being deported for a third time caused him to take his own life. He jumped from a bridge near the Tijuana-San Diego border.
In light of Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant escalation, especially the rise in ICE raids, there has been significant pushback. In Santa Ana, California, immigrant rights activists put pressure on ICE officials; said officials subsequently announced last week that it is “no longer viable to keep a local detention facility open.”
In 90 days the agency will be terminating its detention contract with the city. The announcement came after years of activist work—actions ranging from protests to hunger strikes, as well as direct action targeting the city council. And it worked.
This means that it’s also possible in other cities across the US. In light of current events, this development will hopefully encourage other communities to mirror these incredibly brave efforts and take their own stand against oppressive immigration policies.