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What You Need To Know About Abolishing ICE

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement— more commonly referred to as simply ICE— was born in 2003 under the George W. Bush administration. ICE’s purpose is to detain and deport immigrants. In fiscal year 2017, ICE deported an estimated 226,000 people and detains an average of 40,000 people every day. 

Today, ICE has over 20,000 employees and an annual budget of approximately six billion dollars—money that would be better spent if we invested in things that actually keep our communities safe, like education, health care, jobs, and infrastructure. 

Becoming a U.S. citizen is not an easy process— it requires difficult examinations, a record of a long-term physical presence in the country, and more. In addition, there’s a 140,000-person cap to how many employment-based immigrants can gain citizenship each year.

When you think about how many people overcome grueling conditions to make a better life for themselves and their families by moving to the United States, the country known worldwide for its boundless opportunities, this number is dangerously small. When folks and/or refugees from foreign countries do not follow these strict procedures that lead to the path of citizenship, oftentimes out of lack of knowledge on how to achieve it, they are deemed as simply, yet incredibly inhumanely, “illegals.” 

This is where ICE comes into the picture, wreaking havoc on communities of color and working-class communities by racially profiling and using scare tactics. Violently entering immigrants’ homes, shackling them and taking them into unmarked vehicles, they often take parents from young children, inflicting deep trauma that will last for years. This, however, is not to say that children aren’t taken either, and oftentimes have little clue as to what’s going on because they are too young to truly comprehend it. 

The very mission of ICE is at odds with values we hold dear—like treating all people with dignity and respect. An agency that was created to tear apart communities and was founded on the belief that mass deportations make our country safer cannot be reformed.  

Since its inception, ICE has routinely violated human rights. ICE agents and police officers colluding with ICE engage in racial profiling and warrantless searches, detain people without probable cause, and fabricate evidence.

Despite ICE’s long history of human rights violations, the agency has remained unaccountable to the courts, to our communities, and to Congress, which has repeatedly urged ICE to improve detention standards and address fiscal mismanagement—demands the agency has largely ignored.

Immigrants detained by ICE officers are then taken to an ICE detention center, which there are over 100 of, for an indefinite amount of time. In these establishments, men and women are often separated, but both are placed into crowded, disease-ridden conditions. They are forced to part with their belongings— prized possessions, clothing, etc.— and are given jumpsuits to wear. Oftentimes, ICE detainees are forced to part with their own names, often only being referred to by their ‘alien registration number.’ 

The intentional process of stripping autonomy and selfhood away from detainees goes much further. Malnourishment, extreme temperatures, a lack of hygienic products, and minimal protection and testing for COVID-19 weigh heavily on detainees. As if these weren’t bad enough, ICE detention centers run rampant with staff members who abuse their powers to the greatest degree. Sexual, physical, mental, and emotional violence are prevalent in their facilities.

Just recently, Georgia nurse Dawn Wooten came out and said that unnecessary hysterectomies were being performed on detainees from an outside doctor— she estimated that this happened to around 20 women over a 6-year period. Many of the women who had this done weren’t made fully aware as to why it was being done, either.

Abolishing ICE, not merely reforming it, is the only way to protect immigrant lives and keep families together. Though DACA— Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals— can often protect the children of immigrants, it is no way enough. Taking down an organization that supports white supremacy, racial profiling, for-profit prisons, and human mutilation is crucial in combating systemic racism. Human beings, regardless of where they’re born and where they go, are not illegal.

There are many alternatives to ICE, but we don’t need to have an exact blueprint for restructuring the federal government to know that ICE is an immoral, unaccountable, and dangerous agency that should be dismantled immediately. And we know we don’t need to replace ICE with more militarized enforcement.

Our immigration policy should be grounded in human rights and should build on things we know can create safe, healthy, communities—resources that help everyone thrive, not tearing loved ones apart.

Though working toward abolishing ICE will be a long and grueling process, and something that us civilians cannot do alone, there are several steps we can take in the immediate and near futures to help us achieve this:

1. Urge our members of Congress to defund and dismantle ICE.

Congress holds the purse-strings and can simply stop funding ICE. Or, they could pass legislation to abolish the agency. 

2. While working to abolish ICE, we must also disrupt its abusive agenda wherever we can.

ICE relies on cooperation from local law enforcement to round up and detain immigrants. We can pressure cities, counties, states, and schools to stop helping ICE.

3. Support immigrants in our communities.Volunteer and support efforts to provide legal services, know your rights trainings, and offer sanctuary in places of worship. Show up to witness or disrupt when ICE tries to tear members of our communities from us. Check out No Detention Centers In Michigan for more information.

Take part in Abolish ICE actions and protests in your community.

A Beginners Guide to Allyship

What is an ally?

An ally is any person that actively promotes and aspires for the advancement of inclusion through intentional, positive, and conscious efforts that benefit others.

This can include doing things like, lifting others up and advocating for their experiences, understanding that other’s struggles might be different from our own, supporting active change, and most importantly, listening.

What is allyship?

Allyship has a variety of definitions, all of which follow the same principles: A consistent relationship of trust and accountability with marginalized communities and individuals, making efforts to recognize the struggles of those you ally with, and finally, finding an opportunity to grow whilst building relationships with others.

Allies are critical members of all movements for change and progress around the world. Most recently in the Black Lives Matter Movement, allies from outside the Black population play an important role in educating those in their own community.

As an ally, it is important for our words must to always coincide with our actions. This means that even though you are combating racism within your sphere of influence, it is also important to refrain from centering yourself and your own experiences. This also refers back to the power of empathy that was mentioned in our last blog. Allyship requires us to believe underrepresented people’s stories even if we do not share the same narrative.

What is Performative Allyship?

This is when someone from a majority or privileged group professes their support of or solidarity with a marginalized group in a manner that either isn’t helpful or actively harms the marginalized group.

This can be an instance in which someone posts about an issue or cause but does not stand up for the people leading the cause. In a sense, talking the talk without walking the walk. It can also mean challenging others as a means to showcase how much they have done for a cause, how much they care about something, or even how well they know about a certain concept.

Performative allyship goes to “check a box” or saying something like, “I posted about it ‘x’ amount of times, now I can move on.” Social movements and causes never have been and never will be a trend, yet this form of allyship draws attention to the ‘performer’ rather than the people that they aim to support.

If you’re learning, it’s likely that others in your network are doing so as well, and can also benefit from the same resources. Keep sharing, speaking up, and pressuring those around you to do the same.

Allyship is a verb rather than a noun, it is something we are constantly doing. Defining allyship as a noun suggests that there is a checkpoint that we need to reach when advocating for others. When in reality, as allies we should constantly be asking ourselves “how does this benefit those around me?”. Choosing to speak up for the lack of diversity on within brands and business, or making others more aware of things going on outside of my community, or even getting involved in local governments should be the sole objective rather than trying to seek approval from others.

Allyship is a continued investment in supporting others. It also means to hold accountable, not only those around us but also ourselves when mistakes are made. A simple “thanks for holding me accountable so I can do better” or “I hadn’t thought of that, thanks for your perspective”, can provide a much more open approach when asked to shift our thinking.

Although we can look to others to hold us accountable, when it comes to learning new information, we mustn’t rely on marginalized communities to educate us on their struggles. Examples can be things like asking an LGBTQ+ individual to simplify homophobia or a woman to unravel the patriarchy or a Black person to explain white supremacy. These are all examples of demanding emotional labor from these individuals, it asks marginalized members to live through past emotional trauma or pain that they have lived through simply for the sake of your better understanding. There are a plethora of credible resources including biographies, articles, documentaries, and novels, all of which allow readers to gain an understanding of the common struggles and barriers faced by marginalized communities and their members.

Just because you personally may not have experienced biphobia or police brutality, doesn’t mean that these issues don’t exist. Take the time to learn about issues outside of your sphere, have those difficult conversations about the privilege you might have, and acknowledge how you can use that privilege to help others. While it is understandable that you may not fully understand the experiences of the communities you wish to support, it is your job as an ally to acknowledge that their struggles are both valid and important.

I hope that our readers continue to speak out against injustice and social inequity, striving to listen to those around them, adapt their thinking, and eventually become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

— Rachael Bailey, Undergraduate Intern

The Importance of Empathy: 2020 & Beyond

Most of us grew up learning the importance of the “Golden Rule”, which says to treat others the way we want to be treated. However, it seems to be a lot harder to enforce as we get older or when we don’t personally relate to what someone else might be going through.

This is where empathy comes in.

Being empathetic involves being a good listener and believing that people are telling the truth when it comes to their personal experiences. It asks for us to recognize that no matter how different our own experiences are, what another person is going through, is true for them.

I’m still learning about how best to develop and strengthen this quality. But I’ve already learned a few things about how to bring more empathy to those around me and I hope to share these tips with our readers.

As Atticus Finch said in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird:

‘You can never understand someone unless you understand their point of view, climb in that person’s skin, or stand and walk in that person’s shoes”

It’s important to face the gruesome truth of this quote: empathy is not comfortable work. It is far easier to be sympathetic towards others than it is to ‘climb into another’s skin’ and open ourselves up to those vulnerable emotions.

However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing political tensions, and brutal acts of racism across the world, it’s become increasingly important to practice empathy in our everyday lives.

Although it might seem easy to simply understand what the other person is feeling, empathy requires more effort and thinking. It involves the interpretation of one’s facial expressions, posture, tone, words, and more. To best acknowledge someone’s distress, it is important to connect all the available clues. It is also critical that rather than sharing your own feelings towards someone’s challenges, it is your job to simply listen and support them.

So how can we be there for those around us? How can we become more comfortable in another’s shoes?

Empathy starts with practice, so the next time you have a conversation with a friend or family member who may be feeling down try these tips:

1. Try to change your perspectives

When talking with someone who seems to be going through a tough time, try to imagine what life is like for them. Awareness of someone’s pain can feel overwhelming, but during difficult times, people need to know that someone is there for them. Changing our perspectives asks us to put aside our own preconceived notions, attitudes, and behaviors, and just really listen. This allows us to see and feel the world through the eyes of others, and truly walk in another’s shoes as the saying goes.

2. Recognize your emotions

This means fully acknowledging the emotions that others may be feeling and even talk about them. You don’t need to ask why they are feeling this way, but simply identifying or calling the emotions out by name can be helpful for both parties. This can be something like “it sounds like you are feeling really overwhelmed right now” or “it sounds like you’re in a really stressful position.”  During conversations, try to focus your full and undivided attention towards the other person, so they can feel both heard and understood.

3. Communication is Key

Rather than saying things like “At least …” or minimizing someone’s situation try to communicate that you understand their feelings and believe their experiences. Instead, maybe say things like “It sounds like you’re in a really hard place, would you like to talk more about it?”. This leaves room for an open and healthy dialogue between both parties, which eventually can give you a better understanding of what they are going through. If they choose not to share their situation however, there is nothing wrong with that, it’s still important to validate their decisions.

4. Avoid Judgement

This means being open to what another person might be going through and what they are feeling. It also means refraining from comments that invalidate or belittle their experiences. These can be things like “that’s nothing compared to …” or “you shouldn’t be so upset about …”. When we do say things like this, it is often our attempt to avoid those difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversations about our emotions. In the case that someone comes to you with a crisis, respect that they trust you with their emotions.

Although empathy might seem like a small concept in today’s conversations regarding structural racism and inequity, being emotionally invested in someone else’s stories and situations can go a long way. Using this as a tool to hear from those who may be different from us allows them to feel fully heard and accepted. In becoming more empathetic, those around us may be more likely to also react in a similar way when we are hurting, creating a full circle of compassion and empathy within our communities.

— Rachael Bailey, Undergraduate Intern   

Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage

It seems fitting that amid some of the most important local and national elections of 2020, we also celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. It was in August of 1920 that women were granted the right to vote in the United States. As voting is the cornerstone of democracy, I wanted to share my own reflections on the suffrage movement and how its importance is maintained in our society today.  

The 19th Amendment Did Not Apply to Women of Color

Black women played a very prominent role in the suffrage movement and were central to the struggle for the vote. Unlike the predominantly white suffrage organizations however, women of color wanted to also address additional reforms including job training programs, fair wages, child care access, as well as school integration. While the 19th amendment stated that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States on any account of sex”, many women of color found themselves unable to exercise their legal right to vote. Though they marched alongside women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul, Black women remained silenced by racist policies. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that women of color in the South were able to cast their ballots without restrictions. For Latinx, Native, and Asian American women, this process was prolonged until the 1975 Voting Rights amendment that prohibited discrimination against minority citizens. While women of color were forced to wait an additional 50 years to gain proper access to the ballot box, the contributions of women like Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth have since been largely erased from history. It is also extremely unfortunate that a century later, women of color in the U.S. and its territories still face serious barriers. In Puerto Rico for example, these are American citizens that are unable to vote in federal presidential elections. Because feminism and women’s rights are an ongoing struggle, it’s important that on the 100th anniversary, we honor the women that fought for the right to vote for all women and also acknowledge that we still have ways to go. 

Voter Suppression Still Exists

Voting is one of America’s most cherished democratic liberties. While the founding fathers sought to utilize this fundamental component in our new nation, the right to vote was denied for many populations for centuries of US history. Individual states, particularly those in the south, had taken it upon themselves to make it even harder for people of color to vote since before the 18th century. Legislators passed laws, created literacy tests, and poll taxes while white citizens used threats and violence as a means to strip women of color of the right to vote. It’s easy to assume that these are all things of the past however, voter suppression is still very present in the United States. Although literacy tests may not be used anymore, practices like gerrymandering and voter ID laws work to make it harder for Black women to cast their votes. Discriminatory state-level policies including polling place closures and pre-registration requirements tend to leave working-class Americans, most of which are people of color, no choice but to postpone their vote. While voting rights in America have come a long way toward ensuring equal ballot access for all, it’s important to utilize the privilege that others might not have of making our voices heard on election day. 

Suffrage Has Yet to Be Given to Incarcerated Women

A hundred years after women earned the right to vote, there is now a large population of people losing it. Felon disenfranchisement refers to the mass incarceration of women of color and how this issue affects Black women in particular. Within the U.S., 50% of the prison populations are women of color who are prohibited from voting while incarcerated.  The U.S. is home to just 4% of the world’s female population yet is also responsible for 33% of the world’s incarcerated female population. Almost 6 million taxpaying Americans with felony convictions were barred from voting in the 2018 midterms due to state-level felon disenfranchisement laws. Prior to the overturning of Florida’s disenfranchisement law, 1 in 10 Floridians were barred from voting due to a felony conviction. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in the movement for expanding voting rights to citizens facing time within the U.S. criminal justice system. These actions have included establishing jail polling locations, authorizing special states for incarcerated voters, and designing jail voter registration plans. To someone who has fortunately not been stripped of their right to vote, this may seem like small progress. However, the adoption of these policies helps to protect the voting rights that women fought so hard for 100 years ago. 

Voting is a crucial aspect of our democratic system and regardless of an individual’s circumstances, everyone should have equal access to the tools and resources necessary to exercise their right to vote. It is critical that as we celebrate a century since the ratification of the 19th amendment, we highlight the importance of voter confidence in our democracy that so many fought to protect.

— Rachael Bailey, Undergraduate Intern

Self-Love in Quarantine

“Well, quarantine’s the perfect time to fix that” my friend says to me. We then continue to complain about the way our bodies have changed during quarantine. We’ve had so much time alone with ourselves that it’s hard not to get frustrated when the jeans you bought 5 months ago don’t fit anymore or when that “Quick Easy Abs” workout by Chloe Ting just seems impossible to start up again. After all, the surplus of workout videos, fat-shaming memes, and jokes about the “quarantine 15” definitely shows that our society is concerned with the effect this pandemic might have on our bodies. 

Not only is it completely normal to feel afraid and stressed out during a pandemic, but it’s also super easy to get lost in the noise of what’s going on around us right now. And I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone in this.

That feeling you get when you’re checking Instagram or chatting with your friends, that impression that you should be doing something more to “better yourself.” That’s called quarantine guilt. It comes just when you least expect it, when your friends are bragging about their daily runs, Pinterest recipes, or new language skills. 

There’s nothing wrong with working towards something you want to achieve during quarantine, it actually seems logical to use all this excess time to learn something new. However, if you want to take this time to slow down and relax, that’s fine too! At the end of the day, the whole point of staying home is to stay safe – not to undertake an extensive self-improvement process.

Although there is nothing wrong with maintaining physical activity during quarantine, we must always go easy on ourselves and know that it’s ok to feel uncertain or unmotivated once in a while. We must allow ourselves to take a break and relax, it’s not the end of the world even though it may seem like it. It’s ok if you didn’t get the chance to do the things you wanted to do during quarantine, you still have your whole life ahead of you to accomplish those things.

Even though self-love will most definitely look different during this unprecedented time, it’s 100% still important to take care of our mental and physical health. There are a variety of ways to take a step back from all the noise, after all, it’s a global pandemic – you don’t have to be ok all the time. I encourage our readers to not feel obligated to keep up with a routine during quarantine, nor guilty if you have yet to find one that works for you. It is natural to feel pressure during a time of uncertainty. What’s important is that we acknowledge those negative feelings and focus on turning them into positive ones.

The next time you notice yourself having negative thoughts about your body or appearances, take a moment to think about why you’re feeling this way. Often times, the things we dislike about our physical appearance tend to be internal challenges from other aspects of our lives. These can include things like work-related stress, school anxiety, depression, or other mental health battles that we eventually deflect onto the person staring back at us in the mirror. I encourage our readers to recognize those negative thoughts, and for each one, try to think about something positive. Experts have said that when we greet one negative thought or sentiment with five positive ones, there is a greater chance we can offset that negativity. Next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or discouraged, it can be helpful to counter those thoughts with five good things that happened today, five things you like about yourself, or even five things you can’t wait to do tomorrow.

Mindfulness meditation has been recommended by health specialists across the country as a means to reduce stress. This process of meditation allows one to focus on the present rather than the uncontrollable “what ifs” that produce anxiety.  Even incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine can help slow your heart rate down, clear your mind, and strengthen your immune system. 

Sometimes, unwinding can also mean taking a break from social media and news channels. Because it is very easy to become overwhelmed and self-conscious when scrolling through Instagram and Facebook for too long, it doesn’t hurt to take a break from it all. For women especially, social media can lead to a false sense of control where users feel as if they need to alter their bodies for more positive attention.

In a time of stay-at-home orders, it can seem like the only things you have control over are what you eat and how much you exercise. However, we can control whether we are self-punishing or self-compassionate. Don’t waste your energy searching for the “perfect” way to quarantine, your body may change, but you are still you. Having a little bit more fat on your body does not change who you are nor does it make you any less beautiful.

As a final message to our readers, remember that everyone struggles with their self-esteem at some point in their lives and sometimes we might need to take a break. Always be kind to yourself, you deserve the same love and compassion you give to others!

— Rachael Bailey, Undergraduate Intern

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