AIM of Ohio and Earth First! have closed the ICE offices in Columbus, Ohio. Photo by Corine Fairbanks
Published July 9, 2018
Activists Shut Down Columbus ICE Offices – Demand End of Agency’s Abuse
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Inspired by immigrant justice activists who have shut down Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in cities across the country (see Mijente’s Free Our Future platform), the American Indian Movement of Ohio and the environmental group Earth First! came together to take over an ICE office this morning in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The two groups are calling for the abolition of ICE and other demands.
AIM of Ohio leader Corine Fairbanks and unidentified protester in Columbus
On a typical weekday, on the fourth floor of Columbus’ 47-story LeVeque Tower, ICE officers process undocumented Ohioans forced to check in at the agency. Immigrants, only accompanied by lawyers in some cases, wait for indeterminate times for their names to be called, knowing the check-in could escalate with no warning to a full-on deportation. Some sit with a single suitcase. This is all a person about to be deported is allowed to carry.
This morning, that routine came to a halt. People have filled the hallway, the front of the building, and the streets outside with calls to abolish ICE and reunite the families the agency has abused.
ICE has been rebuked internationally for its imprisonment of migrant children at the US’s southern border, but it has also been highly repressive in Ohio, conducting raids in Sandusky, Salem, and Massillon. The ICE raid victims were detained and put into deportation hearings, during which they are generally denied their right to representation and are forbidden to have in-person contact with their families. Children who are left parentless are tossed into foster care or remain imprisoned without a plan for reunification.
Madeleine Ffitch, a local mother and Earth First!er, casts the blame on the entirety of the US political system: “This family separation crisis, along with refusing asylum to victims of violence and US economic policy, on top of the hundreds of thousands of deported people from the Obama, Trump, and previous administrations, amounts to a massive humanitarian crisis and a miscarriage of justice. These communities are suffering from the actions of the same international players that the eco-defense movement is working to shut down. We’re here to show a united front with those struggling for migration justice!”
This action comes on the heels of protests and direct actions against ICE across the country—including the recent action by Therese Patricia Okoumou, who scaled the Statue of Liberty on July 4th to, as human rights activist Bree Newsome put it, “demand an end to state violence and the inhumane detention of children”—as well as community encampments and shut-downs of ICE facilities in Portland, Los Angeles, and Detroit.
Activists from many places on the political spectrum are calling for ICE to not just be reformed, but to be abolished altogether. They point out that the agency has only existed for 15 years, and its record is abysmal.
Photo by Corine Fairbanks
“We are here to say that we will not stand silently by, and we’ll resist in ways unheard of right here in Columbus, Ohio,” stated Ruben Castilla Herrera, a long-time immigrant justice activist. “The Columbus ICE office is representative of the ICE field office in Detroit, Michigan, and its director, Rebecca Adducci, who is implementing the same cruelness as the Trump administration’s racist mass deportations.”
“Tackling immigration is a complex issue, as there are many different levels: mistreatment of transgender detainees in ICE custody by both ICE officers and other detainees, the impact of the Muslim ban and hate crimes toward the Muslim community, and concern with workers’ rights and migrant workers,” said Delfin Bautista, the director of the Ohio University LGBTQ Center. “There are multiple challenges and complexities, but there are many opportunities for coalition and solidarity across movements in support of immigration reform.”
The Earth First! and AIM activists in Columbus today are issuing the following demands:
Defund ICE and dismantle the agency.
Reunite all separated families and begin a reparations process for ICE’s victims.
Decriminalize immigration. Halt “zero tolerance” policies at the border and repeal laws that punish migrants, residents, community members, neighbors, families, and children based on their citizenship status.