Editor: As this article went to press, Israel Arrascue was deported to Peru.
On Feb. 26, over 100 community members showed up at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., to loudly stand in solidarity with those detained just a few feet behind them. Students from the University of Washington organized this Solidarity Day event alongside La Resistencia, a local grassroots organization working to end the detention of immigrants, stop all deportations and shut down the NWDC.
Families and friends gathered on a cold, rainy day around food, shared poetry, music and speeches given by community members and men from the inside. Sustained moments of loud noise, using pots, pans, car horns and other creative techniques were heard throughout the day so those detained inside could hear and feel the community support.
The sense of community and solidarity among all parts of the working class represented there was very clear and inspirational. Speakers from various organizations all over Washington state came out to show support, including a couple of families representing the Forks Human Rights Group, who traveled three hours to be there. “I like seeing so many young faces because in this youth, a great leader will emerge,” said one of the women from the Forks Group addressing the crowd of 100. The youth organizing the day’s event centered it around the campaign to #FreeIsrael and reunite him with his family. Detained by ICE for over two unnecessary years at the NWDC, Israel Arrascue Pedreros, father and family man, has suffered both physical and mental health crises due to neglect and inhumane treatment, including contracting COVID-19 with nearly 300 others during an outbreak. His daughter has also reported a mental health crisis stemming from the separation of families, an immigration policy the United States keeps pursuing.
News broke that ICE is preparing to deport Arrascue next week. This is after the Seattle ICE Field Office failed to use the correct standard in reviewing his case, refusing to see the impact his deportation would have on his family, solely because his family is undocumented — something that should hold no bearing on the level of impact Arrascue’s deportation would have on them. His two years of unnecessary detainment has cruelly impacted him and his family. Israel Arrascue has already served his time, and deporting him would be punishing him twice for something he’s already paid for.
In addition, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas issued a new memo on Sept. 30, 2021: Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law to ICE guiding their new “enforcement priorities for apprehension and removal.” On that day, Mayorkas said:
“For the first time, our guidelines will, in the pursuit of public safety, require an assessment of the individual and take into account the totality of the facts and circumstances … In exercising this discretion, we are guided by the knowledge that there are individuals in our country who have been here for generations and contributed to our country’s well-being, including those who have been on the frontline in the battle against COVID, lead congregations of faith, and teach our children. As we strive to provide them with a path to status, we will not work in conflict by spending resources seeking to remove those who do not pose a threat and, in fact, make our Nation stronger.”
It is clear that Israel Arrascue does not pose a threat, yet ICE won’t allow him to reunite with his family. The organizers connected with Israel Arrascue during the demonstration via Zoom and he was able to address the crowd. He spoke about the cruel conditions he and others have to endure, especially due to the COVID protocols NWDC has implemented. He described being in a cell for more than 24 hours at a time, as well as constant denial of medical attention or the use of the law library. The nutritional provisions he said most people would barely call food. He went on to talk about being around fellow detainees from all walks of life and they all agree there is no rhyme or reason for why some folks are liberated and some have been there for years, now without hope of even release, never mind not being deported.
“The system is broken,” said Arrascue. “Something else I observe is that we also have to take into consideration how provocative it is for this society. These generations of broken families, families without a mother or father, of separated families, that these same families when all of a sudden their parents make a mistake, a lot of these kids will repeat this mistake or even worse mistake due to the separation of their family, due to the absence of their parents,” making the distinction that its not the mistake that their parents made, but the cruel punishment capitalism deals to the poor that will perpetuate this fate.
Many other people detained inside were also able to share their stories. Detainees from Ukraine were able to share their stories and feelings of desperation, of not knowing what the U.S. government has in store for them, at one point holding back tears. ICE is slated to deport them to Ukraine soon, a current war zone. Where is this humanity the Biden administration claims to hold over the previous administrations?
It was clear to the people out in the rain making noise that lawmakers, the Department of Homeland Security memos, policies, speeches and Biden’s lip service alone will never bring about the change we need. On the mic, students were talking, making connections about how the need to abolish ICE and abolish prisons is tied with the need to abolish the for-profit system of capitalism. They demanded that universities and colleges divest from tech companies like Lexis Nexus and Amazon, which profit from helping ICE put humans in cages. There is a campaign to keep mobilizing to demand “ICE #freeIsrael” with many ways to get involved. Check the LaResistenciaNW Facebook page for updates.