Last Wednesday, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 32-year old Mexican national and Ithaca resident Jose L. Guzman. The event was confirmed and only widely spread once reporters investigated the swift and shocking arrest, a bleak reminder that federal agencies are operating faster than ever under the auspices of the current administration.
ICE has become more active over the past few months, increasing their arrests by a staggering 32.6 percent only a few weeks after Trump assumed the presidency. Under the Obama administration, federal agents were directed to focus on serious criminals — now, empowered by the new administration, ICE is increasingly merciless in its efforts to deport undocumented immigrants, even those with no criminal record. “Before, we used to be told, ‘You can’t arrest those people,’ and we’d be disciplined for being insubordinate if we did…Now those people are priorities again,” a 10-year veteran of the ICE agency admitted to The New York Times.
Guzman’s arrest highlights the limits of local authority regarding immigration matters. Even though the Ithaca Police Department is prohibited by sanctuary city legislation from assisting in federal immigration activities, ICE and other agents are still very capable of operating unaided inside the Ithaca limits, as evidenced by last week’s events. Although Ithaca’s decision to adopt sanctuary city status is commendable, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent — the work is far from over.
The Ithaca and Cornell community quickly organized a rally in support of Guzman the day following the arrest — students, faculty and Ithaca locals came together to express their fears and concerns. We need more of this type of activism; every protest is a clear demonstration that such aggressive efforts by ICE to deport immigrants will not be tolerated. The next task for the community is to put Guzman in touch with his lawyer, who has been prohibited from seeing him since his arrest.
ICE’s actions have taught us not to take the safety of our friends and acquaintances for granted; we must involve ourselves in more discussions about what we can do to uphold the security of students. We need to empower not only each other, but the entire Cornell community to take a firmer stance on sanctuary status. We cannot let this arrest divide us or send us into a state of panicked chaos; we must make it clearer that ICE is unwelcome and that we will do all we can to fight for “any person, any study.”