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Editor's letter: 7/17/19

If you can remember a time before 2 Fast 2 Furious, you’re older than U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agency was created in 2003 under the newly-minted Department of Homeland Security, a year after Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears called it quits, in the post-9/11 hysteria that produced the invasion of Iraq and the USA PATRIOT Act.

Last weekend, agents representing an institution as old as the kids from Stranger Things were predicted to target more than 2,000 migrant families through a series of nationwide raids at the direction of the Trump administration. “They’re going to take people out,” the former game show host threatened from the Rose Garden. 

While the promised mass round-ups have yet to materialize (for the second time in weeks) reports across the country show communities chilled with fear and driven into darkness. A teenager in New Jersey huddled with her parents in the Sunday morning dark as ICE agents surrounded their home. Vibrant neighborhoods in Houston and Los Angeles, normally filled with the bustle of vendors, the sounds of musicians and the laughter of children, fell deadly silent under the threat of armed abduction. 

“I want people to get a sense of how this is affecting those who aren’t getting picked up,” sociologist Dani Rosales told The Tulsa Voice. “I want people to understand the families who are shutting themselves up in their homes because they are afraid to leave.” You’ll find Jessica Vazquez’s conversation with Rosales, along with local advocates Rosa Hernandez and Jorge Roman-Romero—ahead of their panel discussion on immigration and human rights happening at the Woody Guthrie Center later this month -- in this issue. 

“Immigration is no longer just a story,” Boulder Weekly editor Joel Dyer told a room full of journalists last week at the 2019 Association of Alternative Newsmedia Conference in Colorado. It is instead, he argued, the story of this century—the metric by which we’ll be measured by future generations. When asked how we met this dark beat of history, what will we say?

The question was ringing in my head all weekend as I scrolled past images of the vice president standing stiff-lipped across a cage stuffed with hundreds of human beings at a border camp in McAllen, Texas. In the video, men plead with the camera, desperate to tell the world about the squalid conditions of their detention. 

“We learn to think of history as something that has already happened, to other people,” Masha Gessen wrote last week in The New Yorker. As a mass deportation strike force and inhumane border camps become a more regular part of our public life, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that history is happening now, here, to us. 

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