How to Respond to Threats of Increased Immigration Enforcement

Dear Friend,

I know that many of you are worried, scared, angry, confused, and eager to take action in light of all of the news and information circulating regarding threats of increased immigration enforcement. I have spoken to several of you on the phone, via email, and on social media. Thank you for your concern, your awareness and your willingness to show up.

It is important that we actively work together against the fear and hatred that are already traumatizing our communities. We must be prepared to respond to the needs of the targeted and impacted communities. We must not contribute to fear, panic, chaos, or trauma. We must remember that immigrants and their families are the ones who should make decisions for their own lives. Whatever those decisions may be, as allies, accomplices and people of faith and good will, we are called to honor their integrity and liberty in ways that are supportive, respectful, and selfless. This is how we honor the dignity of all, especially in times where our own drive to be saviors, fixers, helpers and healers can misshape our good intentions into harmful impacts.

In the St. Louis region during the last several decades, immigration enforcement has not stopped, waned, or ceased to impact immigrants and their families, loved ones, colleagues and friends on a daily basis. Raids are not new. Targeting immigrant families is not new. Threatening massive deportations is not new. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is present in St. Louis, in Missouri and in Illinois. Local police regularly collaborate with and facilitate immigration enforcement in our region every single day. The latest flurry of public statements, news articles and social media turmoil regarding the Administration’s call for mass deportations in the coming days may be indicative of a new wave of enforcement operations in select cities, but this is a continuation of everything we have been fighting against for decades, and everything that this Administration has promised the American people for the past 4 years. 

It is not possible to know for certain what will or will not happen today, tomorrow or in the next weeks or months. The best use of our resources and energy is to continue the work we have been doing, identify opportunities to improve, and be prepared to respond quickly when the needs of the impacted community change. Please click here for a reminder of basic rights and tips for interacting with law enforcement, and a short list of available resources in the St. Louis region (click here to view this information online). What we have seen recently is the same threat and are the same political tactics that have been used in the past, especially as election season kicks in and presidential rallies and speeches begin to spread across the country. So, let us keep that in mind; let us recognize these tactics as part of the larger racist, supremacist strategy as it continues to unfold both in threats and concrete actions. 

Panicking now, or even shifting our messaging, efforts and energy into a state of hyper-awareness and urgent defensiveness will not stop or prevent anything from happening that has been the government’s trajectory for decades. We are not surprised. We have been paying attention and many of us have worked every single day to build relationships that can turn into power so that we can eliminate the systems that permit threats and actions like those heard and seen in the last few days. 

It is important that we remain ready to respond if any increased immigration enforcement happens in our region. We have built stronger relationships in our community and conversations have happened repeatedly about how to respond in crisis. Some congregations are prepared to open doors around the clock. Please be prepared to show up, support, interrupt, and disrupt whatever may happen. Please read and review all of the materials in this document, and make sure you are spreading accurate information about your rights and the rights of immigrants. Trust your relationships, trust your colleagues, and trust the individuals and organizations that are in deep relationships with immigrant communities in St. Louis. Trust that if there is a need and an opportunity for allies and accomplices to show up, you will be informed and instructed, and that call will be rooted in the needs and demands of our immigrant neighbors. 

As we consistently have done for years, we still urge you to speak out against ICE, against all immigration enforcement, and all actions that violate our shared values. Please call your elected officials at all levels of government to denounce the targeting of immigrants and their families. Please call your members of Congress (210-702-3059) and demand they cut all funding from the Deportation Force. Please call the national office of ICE (888-907-6635) and denounce the Administration’s statements, any operation that would destroy families and individual lives in our communities. Please continue to learn about how this present situation came to be, what systems are in place that maintain this reality, and continue to engage as an individual and a member of your community so that we can disrupt and replace unjust individuals and institutions that criminalize our existence.

Please do not spread fear. Please do not sensationalize tactics that are always present in our communities - regardless of when the news, the President, or other leaders speak of it directly. Stay the course, my friends. Our community needs our calm, non-anxious presence now and always. Our community needs you to commit to changing the systems every single day, not just at the moment of chaos.

We will respond as needed. We will continue to call hatred, violence and oppression for what it is, regardless of who leads it. We will continue to name the systemic, historic and perpetual patterns of this kind of violence against our communities and our values. We will continue to work for systemic changes so that this kind of tactic is no longer acceptable, permissible or possible. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

In service,

Sara John, Executive Director