On March 1, 2021, we launched Eyes on ICE: Truth and Accountability Forums under the We Are Home Campaign. This series of virtual and in-person events were designed to expose the truth of immigration enforcement practices, spotlight the stories of those who have organized and been impacted by ICE, and share solutions for a free future.
What We Did
The experiences of immigrant and undocumented communities are a critical to the ways immigration policies shift. When the Biden Administration announced an internal audit of the agencies responsible for managing immigration in January, we knew how important it would be to center impacted communities in our demands for real change.
Simply put: The DHS review absent these perspectives, and the vast range of human experience under immigration enforcement, would leave us with superficial corrections to the system, at best.
In order to center these stories, we created a guide for immigrant rights groups to create a forum, tell their stories, and publicly share their recommendations for the policies that needed to change.
In 60 days of Eyes on ICE we had 78 participating organizations, 30 forums, and 1800 attendees from 48 states, and several countries abroad including Mexico, Haiti, and Columbia.
What We Learned & Accomplished
Over 150 testimonies were shared to lay the groundwork for dismantling the current deportation and detention systems. These stories exposed the abusive and retaliatory nature of ICE enforcement, and the resilience of community members who have been unjustly criminalized, detained, and separated from their families.
Because of these efforts, DHS Secretary Mayorkas has agreed to attend a public forum to listen to the testimonies shared and to hear the demands of directly impacted individuals and respond. The following are just a few examples of the stories shared during Eyes on Forums across the country:
Carolina Roman, a member of Chicago Community & Workers Rights in Illinois, detailed ICE-employer collaborations and retaliation against her leadership in organizing:
I decided to go to the Department of Labor to file a complaint after being unjustly fired, but when I contacted a coworker for support, he told me that they couldn’t help — that the owner of the company had threatened to fire them if they helped me. The owners of companies often take advantage of the fact that we do not have citizenship, using it so that we cannot organize ourselves or ask for a decent salary.
Carmen Zuvieta, with ICE out of Austin in Texas, shared the impact of her husband’s deportation and becoming an organizer in her own community:
I wasn’t prepared for my husband to be deported one day after our daughter had been hospitalized. And with a 2-year-old son who did not understand what ‘borders’ were, who was only looking for his father in every truck that passed — There are no words. The pain and frustration of this experience turned into empathy for others and empowerment for me. I became an activist against this monstrous immigration system and the criminalization that has been targeted at poor and minorities communities.
Madai Zamora, a former DACA recipient and member of Otros Dreamers en Acción, shared the fears of ICE enforcement and unexpected family separation and her decision to return to Mexico:
Yes, I decided to come back. But it’s because the government, the policies and the rhetoric pushed me back. The anxiety was unbearable. Now I’m going on three years with family separation. And you learn to be okay with it – we have dealt with this for decades. The world got a little taste of what we go through because of COVID-19. And it’s something that we don’t wish on anyone.
What We’re Still Fighting For
Even with the change in Administration, the harms to our community members, including Eyes on ICE speakers and family members, have continued.
- Isrrael Victorio-Tegoma, who provided testimony for the Eyes on ICE forum from detention was deported just weeks after his wife shared his testimony.
- Gabriela Solano, a survivor of domestic violence who was unjustly incarcerated for 25 years, had sentence commuted in 2018, only to be placed into ICE custody upon her release in 2021.
We will continue to push for the changes that our communities deserve. During the forums, speakers highlighted the following policy demands that include solutions President Joe Biden and Secretary Mayorkas could take immediately to end the harms, rein DHS in, and begin dismantling the deportation machine.
You can read the demands here: The Six Eyes on ICE Policy Demands
We are honored to have had the opportunity to organize and share the stories of 150 individuals who have been directly impacted by ICE enforcement through criminalization, detention, and deportation. With all that we accomplished, we will continue pressing forward to demand an end to the harms our communities face at the hands of DHS and ICE.