Federal Crackdown on Immigration Activists Threatens to Chill Free Speech

Across the country, a growing number of immigrants’ rights advocates and outspoken members of the immigrant community are ending up in immigration detention, facing deportation, or being threatened with criminal charges.

In New York, Jean Montrevil and Ravi Ragbir — both prominent immigrants’ rights activists and leaders of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York Citywere arrested within a week of each other. In an opinion ordering Mr. Ragbir’s release from detention, the judge expressed “grave concerns” that Mr. Ragbir was “targeted as a result of his speech and political advocacy on behalf of immigrants’ rights and social justice.”

In Arizona, No More Deaths, a humanitarian organization whose purpose is to prevent deaths of migrants crossing the desert, recently released a report accusing Border Patrol agents of putting the lives of migrants at risk due to recorded incidents of them sabotaging water containers and other supplies. A week later, eight members of the organization were charged with federal crimes for leaving water, food, and blankets for migrants along desert trails.

Similar incidents have been reported in other states, including Washington state, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Montana. The Department of Homeland Security has denied that these incidents are retaliatory. But it is hard to ignore the disturbing pattern: DHS is increasingly targeting activists who publicly oppose or resist the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda.

In a robust democracy, the ability to express support or disapproval of the government and its leaders is essential. Under the First Amendment, the right to free speech applies to all, regardless of immigration status. However, as the New York Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU argued in a brief advocating for Mr. Ragbir’s release, when immigration activists begin facing harsh penalties in increasing numbers, it sends a clear signal to the rest of an already targeted immigrant community: Keep quiet, or you’ll be next.

These incidents are part of a broader trend by the Trump administration to target anyone that doesn’t agree with its policies. From the president’s attacks on the free press and the judiciary to mass arrests of inauguration protesters, this administration has made plain its contempt for the First Amendment.

Immigrants and their allies are not the only people who have been subject to charges from the U.S. government after expressing dissent for the Trump administration. But with Trump’s mass deportation agenda in full swing, immigrant communities are particularly vulnerable. Arrests targeting immigrants’ rights activists have increased at a time when ramped-up enforcement efforts have already had a chilling effect within immigrant communities. Over the past year, many immigrants have decided to steer clear of courthouses, hospitals, and other public spaces for fear of arrest and deportation

Despite claims from DHS that they are acting in the interest of public safety, enforcement tactics that deter immigrants’ full participation in society put us all at risk. By stoking fear in immigrant communities, DHS’ actions not only erode public trust — they also serve to silence and isolate immigrants and their families.

Moreover, by their very nature, silence and isolation allow problems to fester and grow. For example, when victims and witnesses are afraid to report crimes for fear of arrest and deportation, perpetrators get a free pass. When people are afraid to seek medical treatment or evacuate in an emergency, health and safety suffers. When immigrant leaders are scared to bring attention to government misconduct, those actions go unchecked. And when advocates are fearful to provide aid to people in need, lives are put at risk.

It is easy to see why the right to free speech is espoused in the First Amendment. Without the right to critique and hold our government accountable, our other constitutional rights can be easily trampled upon. That is why the stifling of advocate voices is so dangerous, especially in a community that is already under attack. Targeting immigrant leaders endangers the rights of those directly impacted, but it also threatens to chill the free speech of other would-be activists, who may remain quiet lest they, too, become targets for arrest.

 

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Anonymous

There are limits to Free Speech. When foreigners sneak into our country and try to undermine our laws and government that threatens our sovereignty. When foreigners sneak in and collude with politicians to hold our budget hostage and hurt US citizens in an attempt to force the government to capitulate to their demands that's practically an act of war. If it had been Russian citizens who snuck in and held the budget hostage the liberals would be demanding we send the Marines to squash them. In short, Free Speech does not protect foreigners that sneak into our country and attempt to colonize us.

Paul Lyons

Notice how this deceptive article tries to blur the line between immigrants and illegal aliens. An illegal alien is NOT an immigrant as the word "immigrant" implies a person who is in this country legally!! If you are in this country illegally you need to leave, and the sooner the better. If you're an immigrant, WELCOME!! Help to make America great again!!

Anonymous

The news show "Frontline" reported a story where American farmers were raping undocumented farm workers. The native born farmers went to prison!

10kats

Your point? Rape in the U.S. is illegal regardless of the status of the person being raped. Crime is a crime regardless of the status of the person committing it.

Anonymous

A: “Across the country, a growing number of immigrants' members of the immigrant community are ending up in immigration detention, facing deportation, or being threatened with criminals charges.”
ANS: Illegal aliens are not American citizens being deprived of fundamental rights.
A: "In Arizona, No More Death....eight members of the organization were charged with federal crimes for leaving water, food, and blankets for migrants along desert trails.”
ANS: A person charged with aiding and abetting or accessory is usually not present when the crime itself is committed, but he or she has knowledge of the crime before or after the fact, and may assist in its commission through advice, actions or financial support.
A: “Without the right to critique and hold our government accountable, our other constitutional rights can be easily trampled upon.”
ANS: Illegals aliens do not have the moral authority to tell the United States what to do. There is no fundamental right to come to the United States and demand citizenship. Dreamers should be back in their homelands dreaming about making their homelands into places people aren't so hell-bent on getting and staying out of.

Anonymous

What does the word ILLEGAL mean? What about Fraud? If we continue to look the other way and say it's ok to commit these crimes and be a burden on American schools, economy/Medicaid for children and births,food stamps,healthcare etc. and you are here Illegaly defrauding. And burdening Americans.... please consider that we cannot Support everyone and every nation
It unfair We have families too
I'm surprised it's gone on this long and that the Pope hasn't reminded followers that committing illegal acts is immoral and unethical
why should we defend and protect LAWBREAKERS

Anonymous

Unless the law itself is immoral, of course…

Anonymous

Want to stay here?
1. Assimilate
2. Show some Gratitude and Respect
3. Embrace OUR Flag, not Yours
4. Stop blocking our roads and amusement parks

us citizen

Use the correct termino;ogy, Government termino;logy is Illegal Alien, The word illegal means literally criminal! And this no immigtrants are being arressted, Criminals are, criminals posesiing the knowlege they are violating law(s), That is criminal intent, Conspracy to commit a crime and then doing so! They knew the risk they toll that risk, They are getting what they knew was possible!

Cameron

Just a couple of points:
*People who are not legal citizens of the U.S. have no constitutional rights which includes the 1st Amendment.

*If people are entering (or attempting to enter) the U.S. Illegally and someone helps them that is called "aiding and abetting" and that someone needs to be arrested.
*Most criminals avoid, "courthouses, hospitals, and other public places for fear of arrest. . ." . This is not new or surprising.
This is one of the more illogical articles I have read regarding immigration.

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