2017 | United States

Invasions of the Body Snatchers

ICE speaks the language of fear.

Story 211: Early one morning in 2013, MOJ’s wife heard knocking on the door of their apartment in the Bronx in New York City. She opened it without thinking much of it.

Officers in bulletproof vests immediately pushed past her and ran into the house, with at least one agent holding his gun out of the holster. As she tried to figure out what was happening, they said, “Ma’am, just sit down.” MOJ was in the living room, and agents stopped to speak to him. Another agent went into the bedroom area where the couple’s  nine- and eleven-year-old children were crying. The agent ordered the children back into their rooms, stayed at the bedroom doors, and would not let MOJ or his wife move to comfort them. MOJ’s wife was hysterical and asked repeatedly, “What is this about?” The officers would not respond to her. The agents retrieved clothes from MOJ’s dresser and handcuffed him in the hallway, which is when they said they were Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. MOJ was unable to say goodbye to his children before being detained. Both of his children experienced the event as traumatic. MOJ’s son was diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder after the raid and became fearful of the dark; had flashbacks involving police; and vividly remembers the terror of his mother’s screams as ICE took his father away.

Story 172: In April 2016 ICE agents showed up at the Dallas home of LIL and his wife, a U.S. citizen. The agents wanted to take LIL into custody, even though he had no criminal history and a pending green card application sponsored by his wife, who came outside to speak with them. They questioned her about her Muslim faith and her family’s history. They questioned whether her husband had converted her to Islam. She explained that she grew up Muslim. They asked where her parents were from, and she explained her family contained generations of Americans. They continued to ask where her family was from before those generations, to which she explained that they were African Americans likely brought to the United States as slaves. When she asked for their card so that they could speak to the family’s lawyer, the agent refused, saying, “We don’t give cards to people like you.” As they were leaving, they threatened her, claiming that she was harboring an illegal alien and that they would remember her failure to cooperate—particularly when it came to LIL’s bond.

Prometheus Being Chained by Vulcan, by Dirck van Baburen, 1623. Rijksmuseum.

Prometheus Being Chained by Vulcan, by Dirck van Baburen, 1623. Rijksmuseum.

Story 25: In winter 2015 ICE agents went to a home in Long Island at approximately five AM. SLN and his girlfriend, who was nine months pregnant at the time, were already awake because she had started having contractions. All of a sudden, they saw flashlights around their window, which disturbed them because it meant someone had jumped the locked gate outside of the apartment. SLN went to the door and opened it to see what was going on. ICE agents rushed the door. They handcuffed SLN as his girlfriend begged them to stop, explaining that she was on the verge of giving birth. One agent told her to stop crying and another yelled at her not to touch SLN. She said they couldn’t just arrest him because she needed him there. The officers laughed at her. She was left distraught, all alone, and totally confused. Due to her elevated stress, she had to have an emergency C-section the next day.

Story 169: In early March 2016, VEN was at a friend’s home in Williamstown, New York, when three agents appeared and said they were going to detain VEN, who was sixty-seven years old at the time. VEN’s wife later recounted that the agents arrested him so quickly, “They didn’t even let him take his teeth!”

Story 226: In October 2016, at least five ICE agents banged on the door of an apartment in Queens around 5:40 AM. They asked CHMR’s fiancée several questions about him, including his schedule. They left. The next day, CHMR left for work as usual around 5:20 AM. Twenty minutes later, agents knocked on the door. CHMR’s fiancée answered, and they handed her CHMR’s backpack and wallet, explaining they had detained him as he left the home.

Story 101: In October 2012, five armed ICE agents forced their way into a home in Brooklyn and arrested LMA in front of his seven-year-old son and his twenty-three-year-old stepdaughter. The agents escorted him through the house to get his green card. When he began to weep as he was placed in handcuffs, an officer told him to “be a man” and not let his son see him cry. As the seven-year-old cried and began to panic, an agent said, “Hey man, it’s not that serious.” After the raid, LMA’s son became fearful of the doorbell and police, thinking his family members would be taken away. He was evaluated and found to have post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, acute anxiety, and feelings of self-hatred.

Story 104: In July 2016 ICE agents went to a home in San Jose, California, around 6:50 AM. IRL’s parents, ages seventy-two and sixty-eight, were sitting outside peeling cacti. The agents, pretending to be police and probation officers, asked for IRL. His mother went inside and spoke to NML, IRL’s sister. NML, from inside the apartment, pressed them to show identification and a warrant. They did neither and lied, claiming IRL had missed a probation appointment. NML refused them entry. The agents admitted they were from ICE. An ICE officer asked NML if she was an attorney because “she talked so much.”

Story 225: On November 22, 2013, AL received a call from his brother around six AM saying that the warrant squad was at their mother’s Brooklyn apartment. AL’s brother put the agents on the phone. They said they needed to verify that the person in a photograph of a suspect was not him. AL agreed to meet at a specific location. The agents showed up in four unmarked cars and a truck. AL was standing on the street. About ten officers exited. An agent showed AL a photograph of a stranger and AL confirmed it was not him. The agent then displayed AL’s photograph and said, “But this is you.” Agents surrounded him and put AL in a truck. They kept calling him names, saying, “You’re a fucking criminal,” “Fucking immigrant,” “You’re a piece of shit,” and “You’re going to get deported.”

I am a living symbol of the white man’s fear.

—Winnie Mandela, 1985

Story 125: In September 2015 MFA was taking his son and nephew, both twelve years old, to a laundromat in Brooklyn to teach them how to do laundry. Suddenly, an officer approached and, without identifying himself, said, “You’re under arrest.” As MFA tried to figure out who the officers were, his wife, who had been watching from the window of the apartment building, came down and took the two children away.

Story 116: In early 2012 four ICE agents went to a home in New York City. Once inside the home, they said they were from immigration and asked AB if her mother or brother were home. Although her mother was downstairs, AB said no. The agents began to search the home, entering the room of AB’s children, who are U.S. citizens, taking the blanket off of them and shining flashlights in their faces. The agents then threatened AB with deportation if she did not find her mother, whom the agents detained shortly thereafter. AB reported that her children were traumatized. Her eight-year-old son started to isolate himself and her seven-year-old started to fear police, telling his grandmother she had to go whenever he saw officers.

Story 160: In December 2015 three ICE agents came to a home in Queens before eight AM pretending to be police. A husband and wife were home with their sleeping children at the time. The wife refused to open the door. The ICE agents kept banging and kicking to the point that they actually broke part of the door. The husband, scared, ran toward the back window, but ICE agents were there and pointed a gun at his head and said they would shoot if he did not open the door. The wife opened the door; ICE agents entered, handcuffed the husband, and started searching the home. ICE agents entered the bedroom where the children were sleeping and checked under the bed and in the closets. The agents were actually looking for a former housemate. After much pleading by the couple—and after they gave the agents the phone number of the target—ICE let them go. 


Copyright © 2017 by the Immigrant Defense Project and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Used with permission of the Immigrant Defense Project. Complete toolkit is available for download here.

About This Text

Reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids between 2013 and 2016—during which ICE arrested 1.2 million people—from a larger collection the Immigrant Defense Project included in a 2017 “toolkit” created with the Center for Constitutional Rights. Shortly after taking office, the Trump administration announced plans to expand and speed up deportations and commit about $5 billion to hire more agents for ICE and Customs and Border Protection. “It’s fear, fear, fear. That’s the language we are speaking,” said an African immigrant in Washington, DC. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen.”