Things That Matter

ICE Is Going After A Twitter User For Spreading ‘Fake News’ But The Story Might Actually Be Real

As much as anything else, resistance against the increased pressure that ICE is putting on migrant communities is a matter of access to information. From shady facilities to lack of any details on the whereabouts of some detainees or the actual processes through which people are located, caught and processed, there is certainly a lack of clear information or even transparency on how the agency operates. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  recently pointed fingers at a Twitter user who made a claim that might sound over the top, but that is actually sort of plausible in this day an age. 

ICE accused a Twitter user of falsely accusing an agent of posing as a homeless woman to track down a family.

Credit: San Francisco Chronicle

A Twitter user (whom we are not going to identify here, because misinformation or not this can put them at risk of harassment) claimed that an ICE agent pretended to be a homeless person in order to identify and follow a family of undocumented migrants. The tweet was shared by the agency. It read: “An ICE agent posing as a homeless women (sic) tried to access our shelter last night to look for a family, disregarding the fact that we are considered a Sensitive Location. Not only are we are religious organization, the shelter is located in a church.”

If this was true, it would shed light on a totalitarian-like operation that would be highly unethical. If this was indeed the case, the agency would have also violated the unspoken rule of religious buildings being safe places for undocumented migrants. 

It might have been a dubious claim but the crazy thing is that it might very well have been true!

The agency was quick to rebut the claims, perhaps aware of the severity of the claims and the precarious PR situation that it would put it in. They stated: “The allegations that ICE entered the Redmond United Methodist church this weekend, or dressed as a homeless woman to enter a homeless shelter located within the church, are false and do nothing but promote fearmongering.”

We can see here that the reputation that ICE has garnered is in so much trouble that even claims like these, which would have been outlandish a few years ago, are today totally believable and force the agency to discredit them. One of ICE’s strategies has been to promote the idea that their work is a matter of public safety, highlighting cases of detainees with criminal records. This paints an alarmist picture that can lead to dangerous generalizations.

Misinformation damages any democratic society, and social media platforms might not be doing enough to ponerse a la altura de los tiempos.

Credit: FactCheck.org

It doesn’t matter where it comes from, any type of misinformation damages democracy, as citizens do not have the right tools to make informed and conscious decisions when it comes to electing public officials. Social media platforms have been recently under fire for their propensity to be used to spread false information and to stir public opinion by creating information bubbles.

This means that if you receive news and political commentary primarily from your social media feeds, you are likely to receive a very similar range of news and opinions. If you insert an alarmist or misleading news story then the bubble’s general worldview is only validated. ICE has the power and the channels to discredit information they deem misleading, but that is not always the case. 

Real or not, the story got some pretty serious discussions going on Twitter.

One of the most vulnerable points ICE has when it comes to public opinion is the ruthlessness in which they seem to carry out their duties, as they seem to be intentionally punitive. They have been compared to the Gestapo on social media, and some users have highlighted the cruelty of their methods. Whether ICE agents posed as people in need to track down a family of undocumented migrants is ultimately not the point: the point is that it is not beyond the realm of reason to believe that was the case. 

And in the public’s mind digital media monopolies are also to blame

How much do we share online that could reveal key demographics including migratory status? ICE has gotten folk real paranoid, or at least highly weary, of the potential surveillance that individuals and communities could be subject to under the Trump presidency. This feeling of social and cultural uneasiness can lead people to mistrust each other and is fertile ground for even the most outlandish conspiracy theories. It is not that people are suddenly being too melodramatic: the lack of transparency of an agency such as ICE, that can literally decide over matter of life and death, is harmful beyond control. 

ICE Steps Up Attacks On Sanctuary Cities, Issues Subpoenas To Local Law Enforcement

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ICE Steps Up Attacks On Sanctuary Cities, Issues Subpoenas To Local Law Enforcement

@workpermitcom / Twitter

It is the right, under the constitution, of state and local governments, including law enforcement, to refuse to cooperate with federal law. In other words, if the federal government issues a mandate, local officials do not have to comply. That is why some cities abide by Sanctuary policies to protect undocumented immigrants that are being persecuted by government agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, ICE isn’t bowing down to the constitution and is taking matters to the courts. 

Earlier this week, Homeland Security has issued a subpoena to Denver law enforcement to get information on three Mexican nationals and one Honduran who were previously in custody. 

“Since we have no cooperation at the Denver justice center, we are modifying our tactics to produce information,” Henry Lucero, deputy executive associate director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, said, according to the Associated Press

According to the AP, Denver officials have 14 days to respond to the subpoena in three of the cases, but in the other, they have three days to respond. ICE officials allege that all four foreign nationals have been in jail for sexual assault and child abuse and have been previously deported.

“In the past, we had full support. We collaborated in the interest of public safety,” Lucero added. “This is a drastic change. And one ICE is forced to do and puts other agencies on notice that we don’t want this to happen. We want to protect the public.”

Officials at the Denver mayor’s office said they would not comply with the demands of ICE because the paperwork issued by ICE are not proper subpoenas but rather administrative forms and not legal document signed by a judge. 

“The documents appear to be a request for information related to alleged violations of civil immigration law,” Chad Sublet, Senior Counsel to the Department of Safety in Denver, wrote, according to Time magazine. “Based on these facts, we are denying your request.”

Sublet also said that Denver officials have collaborated with ICE on information previously with other requests. He showed documentation that proves Denver responded to “88 requests by ICE between October and December of last year.”

Despite the support of local officials of Sanctuary policies, the majority of those cities have been struck by ICE as they have conducted numerous raids there, including in Denver. 

Cities including Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago all have protections in place for undocumented people, but that has only fueled ICE to conduct raids there and elsewhere. Last year in September, ICE conducted raids in Colorado and Wyoming and, within four days, arrested 42 undocumented immigrants. 

“It is our belief that state sanctuary policies [do] not keep the community safe,” John Fabbricatore, the acting director of the Denver ICE field office, said last year, according to KDVR news. 

“We don’t believe deportation is ever the answer to what criminal activity might be going on,” Jordan García, with the Colorado Rapid Response Network, said in response to the raids

In 2017, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock signed a law that stated law officials would not comply with ICE in any capacity. 

The Denver Public Safety Enforcement Priorities Act was first signed unanimously by the Denver City Council, which was then signed by Mayor Hancock. The mandate “bans city officials from asking an arrested individual’s immigration status.”

While some city officials have prohibited the collaboration between local officials and federal agencies, that has not stopped some from working with ICE to arrest undocumented immigrants. 

Last year in September, the Milwaukee Police Department assisted ICE agents in the detainment of a local resident who was undocumented. Even though Milwaukee does not have a Sanctuary policy in place, Police Chief Morales had previously said a year before they would not collaborate with ICE. 

“I promised to bring back the public trust,” Morales said in 2018. “My job is to bring (back) trust from the community and work with them; my job is not to go out and enforce those types of laws.”

Those statements are why people were outraged that local Milwaukee officers assisted ICE in the detainment of an undocumented father. 

“Chief Morales is gonna love to see police collaborating with ICE,” a bystander said last year as he witnessed ICE and local police working together during that arrest. The Mayor of Milwaukee and police stood on the same grounds that police would “not inform federal immigration officials of whereabouts or behavior of any suspect illegal immigrant.” However, that’s only if a person has never been arrested for a serious crime. 

READ: Woman Records Scene Inside Family Car As ICE Pulls Husband Out While Daughters Cry And Scream

Migrants At This ICE Detention Center Are Being ‘Looked After’ By An Alleged Neo-Nazi And This Sets Off All The Alarm Bells

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Migrants At This ICE Detention Center Are Being ‘Looked After’ By An Alleged Neo-Nazi And This Sets Off All The Alarm Bells

Jerry Ryans / Flickr

Much has been discussed (but never enough, of course!) about how ICE is hiring for-profit corporations to run its detention facilities. These facilities have been witness, according to activist organizations and detainees themselves, to horrific acts of abuse and negligence. Those housed in ICE detention centers often see their mental and physical health deteriorate. Suicides are common, as are fatal and near-fatal complications product of medical mishandling. Anyone in their right mind would ask how this is possible. Aren’t migrants and refugees being cared for by other human beings who should have at least a minimum level of empathy?

It would be irresponsible to generalize and imply that all personnel at detention centers lack compassion, but a recent VICE investigation reveals that there is something seriously wrong with at least one individual who holds a senior position in a detention facility in Nevada, and who has previously worked in government prisons. 

Travis Frey, a captain at a for-profit detention center has posted in a Neo-Nazi website, where he said that “Deep down, no one really gives a shit about racism.” 

Credit: USDHS

The 31-year-old man is a captain at the Nevada Southern Detention Center, which is run by CoreCivic, a highly profitable company contracted by ICE to house undocumented migrants. The fact that someone with a white nationalist agenda is in charge of guaranteeing the safety of undocumented migrants, most of whom are non-white, is troubling. VICE also revealed that Frey sought to establish a white nationalist chapter in his area. He served in the Marines between 2006 and 2008. 

Frey joined the Neo-Nazi website Iron March in 2013 and posted at least a dozen times.

When he posted the bulk of his messages on Iron March between 2016 and 2017, Frey was working at a CoreCivic run prison in Indianapolis. This facility was also authorized to house ICE detainees. The site has been shut down, but its content was leaked in November.

Iron March was fertile ground for far-right ideology and bigotry, as VICE reports: “The foundations of violent neo-Nazi groups such as Atomwaffen were established in Iron March chats, and white nationalist leaders like Matthew Heimbach have said they were radicalized by the time they spent on the site.”

Frey also expressed his wish to get like-minded fascists in Indiana together, which amounts to basically opening a chapter of white nationalists. He wrote in Iron March: “I’m trying to find all the NS [National Socialist] guys in Indiana to get together for a meet and greet.”

Frey used the screen name “In Hoc Signo Vinces”: there literally is a fascist looking after Brown and Black migrants.

Through some personal details posted on the site, including his phone number and email, VICE was able to identify Frey. His Latin username means “In this sign thou shalt conquer” and is used by the military around the world. Interestingly, it was also the title of the American Nazi Party’s manifesto, which is quite revealing when it comes to figuring out Frey’s politics. He posted virulent messages such as: “any ‘man’ who gets that upset about ‘virulent racism’ couldn’t knock out a tooth even if I tied my hands behind my back.”

He also spit out some conspiracy theories, of course, and people on Twitter are questioning how he ended up in this job in the first place.

Other things he said included “heads of world governments and the entertainment industry are under Satanic influences” and “Dark, dark shit goes on in the corridors of power and these rats need to be purged from their nests”. Frey self-proclaimed as a fascist, by the way. VICE tried contacting him but he hung up on them and CoreCivic has not responded to the allegations. Frey has also deactivated his LinkedIn account. 

And others are very upset at how ICE detention centers seem to attract the worst.

There will be a lot of PR work ahead for both CoreCivic and ICE as they try to explain how and why Frey got his job. Are there screening mechanisms in place? Is an officer’s past online presence scrutinized? All of these questions will eventually need some answers.

Racism seems to be an ever-present problem in the corrections industry. Prisons themselves are micro social systems highly defined by race relations. Based on ethnicity, Black and Brown populations are still the biggest in the United States correctional system, and migrant detention facilities are overwhelmingly occupied by people of color.

Revelations such as Frey’s past (it is unclear whether he still holds these beliefs) reveal the vulnerable position in which these populations live. Having guards who may have a racial bias can certainly put detainees at risk of being abused.