On March 13 near the small farming community of Delano, California, Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Garcia-Perfecto were killed when the vehicle they were driving struck a utility pole and overturned. The deaths of Garcia and Perfecto were not simply an unforeseeable accident—a tragic loss with no meaning. Rather, their deaths were and still are the direct result of the actions of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This tragedy is a true expression of ICE’s true character as a terrorist gang, not a fair enforcer of laws.
Garcia and Perfecto were originally from Guerrero, Mexico, and like many other immigrants, they made their living in California as farmworkers. They were parents, friends and beloved members of their community. But, according to ICE, all of who they were as people was overshadowed by the simple fact that the couple was residing in the U.S. “illegally,” and it was this simple fact—this arbitrary categorization that reduces the immense complexity of a human life to “legal status” that would be the fixation that drove immigration agents to pursue the couple that day. It was in this pursuit, fleeing in the fear that they would be ripped away from their family, that the couple were killed.
To be clear, ICE killed Marcelina Garcia-Perfecto and Santos Hilario Garcia.
Their deaths were not the result of “sanctuary city laws” as ICE officials would have us believe (in fact, crime is statistically significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties), but their deaths were instead caused by the culture of fear that ICE has cultivated and has fed off of since its creation. That fear of being torn apart from loved ones transcends cultures and borders.
It is this very fear that ICE creates that constantly jeopardizes the lives of millions upon millions of undocumented people across the U.S.
It is this fear that exacerbates the already exploitative nature of employment under capitalism, the same fear that not only allows, but encourages employers to overwork and steal from undocumented workers, the same fear that works to undermine the collective efforts of these same workers to organize and fight back lest an “anonymous” call be made to deportation officers.
The acts of terrorism that ICE commits against communities of undocumented people in the U.S. is not simply a misapplication of policy as Democratic Party reformists would have us believe. Rather, they are integral to the agency, and by extension, the United States itself. There is no shortage of evidence to highlight the atrocities the U.S. has and continues to commit in its effort to consolidate wealth and suppress all efforts of resistance. ICE tactics fall in as some among many in a long list of examples of how the United States utilizes terrorism and state sanctioned violence to maintain its continued exploitation of the world by any means necessary.
Any attempts to try to obscure this reality and shift the responsibility for the deaths of Santos Hilario Garcia and Marcelina Garcia-Perfecto to any persons other than ICE are clearly misdirection and should be addressed as they are: apologetics for state oppression against some of the most marginalized people in society.
It is one of the cruelest ironies that the United States will justify the deportations and deaths of innumerable people on whether or not they qualify for a certain “legality,” but the United States itself boasts an array of illegal and immoral acts since its creation—the theft of land and the subjugation of those who work it not being the least.
The border that divides the Southwestern U.S. from Mexico is a racist signifier of a system that breeds war, theft, and occupation, and ICE is just one part of that system. We should not seek to “fix” a system that is operating as intended, nor should we seek to reform institutions that are inherently racist and violent; we should eradicate and replace them.
There is no humane immigration policy that allows the continued possibility of people to exist in this country in a constant state of fear and denied access to family and basic human rights. The only humane policy is to return political power to the people and dismantle the border once and for all.