Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"The terror that ICE raids sow in our communities affects us all." (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

"The terror that ICE raids sow in our communities affects us all." (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

ICE Policies Hurt Our Communities Beyond the Border

The United States detains more immigrants than any other country in the world, and ICE’s ballooning budget and expansive detention policies run the risk of reshaping the character of our country

Hamid Yazdan Panah

Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out one of its largest raids in years, arresting more than 140 people in Ohio. But raids and family separation are only part of the total impact ICE has on our communities. The Trump administration has attempted to justify aggressive immigration enforcement by claiming they help make our cities safer, yet the opposite may be true. 

Immigration advocates have raised concerns about public safety based on ICE’s track record of abuse, militarized operations and propensity to identify themselves as the police. So far this year, seven immigrants have died while in ICE custody, with reports citing lack of medical care as a main factor. The cavalier attitude with which ICE conducts operations should be a cause of concern for us all, especially given that ICE has negligently detained or deported more than 20,000 U.S. citizens since 2003.

The terror that ICE raids sow in our communities affects us all. Increased fear in immigrant communities often results in a reluctance to call the police, cooperate with authorities or show up to court, the effects of which have already started to show. In 2017, sexual assault reports by Latinos in Los Angeles fell by 25 percent, while domestic violence reports declined by 10 percent. In Denver, following ICE arrests in the local courthouse, prosecutors reported that victims of domestic violence have refused to testify because of fear of being arrested.

The threat to our collective security extends to public health as well. Widespread fear has led to immigrants forgoing health care for themselves and even their U.S. citizen children, increasing health risks for all. There are also direct and tangible effects of the ICE violence. A 2017 study by the University of Michigan documented the health effects following a 2008 ICE raid in Iowa. The study found that Latina women, including those who were citizens, were more likely to have low birth-weight or premature babies following the raid.

While the immediate effects on health and safety have been documented, the long-term effects will take decades to fully understand. This includes not only the significant trauma inflicted on children separated from their parents while in immigration custody, but the devastating disruption ICE raids can have on their education. After raids took place in eastern Tennessee earlier this year, more than 500 children missed school the following day.

The fear and instability that accompanies these raids have thrust school officials into a role that has now become all too common for teachers, health-care professionals and social workers attempting to provide some sense of guidance and reassurance in a time of immense uncertainty. A survey of 5,400 teachers, principals and counselors conducted by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that 68 percent of administrators cited absenteeism among immigrant students as a problem, and 70 percent of principals and counselors reported academic decline among immigrant students.

These collateral consequences are rarely cited in conversations on immigration and enforcement, but highlight the human costs that we collectively pay. The United States detains more immigrants than any other country in the world, and ICE’s ballooning budget and expansive detention policies run the risk of reshaping the character of our country.

Evidence documenting the destructive effects of ICE enforcement paints a clear picture as to the devastating toll these policies are taking on our society. We must stand together to protect our communities and call for an end to destructive policies that separate our families and destroy the social fabric of our communities.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Hamid Yazdan Panah

Hamid Yazdan Panah

Hamid Yazdan Panah is regional director of the Northern California Rapid Response & Immigrant Defense Network and the Justice & Diversity Center of The Bar Association of San Francisco.

Coalition of 200+ Groups Call for Permanent End to 'Neocolonialist' Global Gag Rule

"The global community deserves true partnership from the U.S., but the threat that this destructive policy could reemerge undermines relationships and harms people around the globe."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


Social Cost of Emissions: 'One of the Most Important Numbers That No One Has Ever Heard Of'

An analysis for Friends of the Earth finds the social cost of CO2 calculates to at least 15 times the Biden administration's current figure, which is set to be finalized by early next year.

Jessica Corbett, staff writer ·


Biden Urged to Pressure EU to End 'Outrageous' Opposition to Vaccine Patent Waiver

"As citizens of the world, we cannot sit and watch a repeat of the horror during the AIDS pandemic, when millions of people died while countries and companies refused to share life-saving antiretrovirals."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


'The Zapatistas Have Invaded': Indigenous Activists Sail From Mexico to Spain

"They did not conquer us; we are still here resisting," the group said following their seven-week trans-Atlantic voyage marking the 500th anniversary of the conquest of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlán.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


Report Shows How DC Statehood Would Be Step Toward Racial and Gender Justice

"In this moment of racial reckoning, in the midst of a burgeoning movement to protect the fundamental right to vote, it should not escape notice that the nation's worst violation of civil rights falls heaviest on Black women."

Julia Conley, staff writer ·