The personal side of immigration enforcement

This week, we begin a series of three columns written by John Carter of Lakeville on the local ramifications of our national immigration policies and their implementation. Carter, as you will see in his bio at the end of the column, is a retired Episcopal priest and currently director of Vecinos Seguros. He has been active in supporting area families who, in one way or another, struggle with a lack of documentation to stay in this country. 

For those who think visits from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) are not happening around here, Carter will set you straight. The incident he writes about happened in Amenia. This family serves those who go out to dinner or need health care here every day. They are a part of our community, and they are not the only ones who have been visited by ICE in our rural towns. All in the Latino community here know about increased ICE activity and who has been affected by it.

Carter has been deeply involved with helping these families, as have other advocates in the region, for years. Though Donald Trump’s administration has taken a harder line, it was not easy under previous presidents either for undocumented immigrants. Carter believes strongly in his mission. Yet it was still difficult for him to decide to go public with this experience, or any that he has seen as part of his work on behalf of the undocumented. After all, the reality is that for any person who is arrested by ICE and deported, there are often families left behind who still feel at high risk of being removed from their lives here. Any attention can lead to more upheaval, including being separated from their children, on whom they place their hopes and dreams of being able to live as full Americans. 

Those who come to this country illegally are often characterized as criminals by the president and the far right, but when one looks at the real people involved in incidents such as the one in Amenia, a very different picture emerges. Carter was given the impetus to write about this family due to the courage of Elizabeth Agustin, the partner of the person who was taken by ICE. 

This is her real name, and she, as noted in the column, was brought to the United States as a 4-year-old child and is here with DACA status. Given the current political climate, however, she does not feel safe in her ability to stay in the country where she grew up. She encouraged Carter to tell their story, giving permission to use her name. (The names of her children and her partner have been changed.) She has achieved a lot in her young life, and is fervent in her wish that her children be able to grow up in the USA. 

She does not hold anything against the local law enforcement or ICE agents who came to her home the morning of April 3. They were just doing their jobs, just doing what they were told to do, she believes. Yet she still hopes for a good outcome for her partner, whose hearing is at the end of May.

After reading the three columns by Carter, you will likely hope for that outcome as well. Please do read them, and become more aware of those who live and work in our communities, enriching them by doing so, yet who are at risk of having their lives and the lives of all those around them changed forever in a moment.