By Nolan Adams, NDG Special Contributor
Last week we took a look at the history of Carrollton’s unique partnership with Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE). This week’s continued coverage will spotlight the group of local activists and their effort to encourage their mayor and city council terminate the agreement before the Senate Bill 4, known as the anti-sanctuary cities ban goes into effect Sept. 1.
Former Carrollton City Councilman Jeff Andonian provided insight into why Carrollton entered such an agreement, to begin with. According to Andonian the decision to enter a 287(g) agreement was merely a knee jerk reaction to Farmers Branch’s ban on renting to illegal immigrants in 2006. He explained that the council was concerned about the ramifications of a large influx of undocumented immigrants may have in Carrollton.
This agreement has been renewed again and again, with no public input or awareness. Over the entire course of my community activism in Carrollton, the only residents who have been aware of this agreement were residents who faced deportation under this agreement. They were all deported while working to obtain citizenship, and every one of them has secured legal residency status since.
I discovered the 287(g) by accident when I mistakenly downloaded a copy from the city’s website of the nineteen-page agreement giving Carrollton officers the authority to detain and deport undocumented immigrants. After a great deal of research, I presented my findings to Carrollton city council. When the city council disregarded my recommendation to end the agreement, I began to organize the community with my wife Megan. Eight months and ten trees worth of event flyers later, I was working alongside an amazing group of men and women, organizing the “Rally Against the Carrollton 287(g) Agreement with ICE” held before the City Council meeting on July 11.
I arrived at city hall later than expected, but the crowd was already gathering. Rubén Salinas, a fellow Carrollton activist, grabbed me by the shoulder to whisper in my ear, “There are men in military gear here, Nolan. Do not tell anyone else, just be aware. I don’t want others to be scared off.” I nodded. Rubén wasn’t kidding. The group was outside in military fatigues. They were equipped with a ‘Kek’ flag — the symbol of the alt-right group ‘Kekistanis’ — and their faces was covered with black and yellow bandannas. I felt nothing but shame for my city and fear for the safety of its people. Naturally, the press conference was moved to the area opposite of the ‘Kekistanis’.
After a press conference (footage is available online), the council meeting began. It was standing room only. In a city like Carrollton, it’s unusual for more than ten residents to attend. There was a discussion on if there was a need to call in the Fire Marshall to confirm the room’s occupancy limits were not exceeded. The City Council proceeded to unanimously approve every item on the agenda, as usual.
Carrollton Mayor Kevin Falconer explained the rules of the public forum. “There’s quite a few people today, so I’m going to be allowing two minutes. So please keep your comments brief.”
The first to speak was Salvador Sarmiento, who traveled from our nation’s Capital, where he serves as the Chair of the Washington D.C. Coalition for Immigrant Rights. He is also a national organizer with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON).
“You are all responsible for what happens under the 287(g) program. The ICE 287(g) program is probably the most controversial, the most problematic, and there is a reason it’s Trump’s favorite deportation program.” Across the room, heads were nodding in agreement. “As we’ve been saying for about ten years, the answer to the 287(g) is end it, don’t mend it. Council, there is a reason why people are afraid to speak up. They are afraid.” Salvador’s admission of fear unified the room. One after another, people began to sign up to speak out against the 287(g).
The agreement is not without supporters, Carrollton Tea Party member William Collier spoke in support of the 287(g). He began by reminding a room full of immigrants what an immigrant was.
“Immigrants are people who come to this country through visas, which are formally known as green cards. Then you have the people that are being called illegal immigrants, which are not illegal immigrants. These are people who have entered our country through illegal means, deceitfulness, lies, and treachery,” Collier said.
Kristian Hernandez, a prominent activist and community leader from the North Texas Dream Team, stepped up to the podium and served them notice: “In a city like Carrollton, which has a Latino population of roughly thirty percent, we know that the 287(g) program is just an excuse to racially profile members of the community. I have been a lifelong Dallas resident, but as of two hours ago, I bought a house in Carrollton. So now it’s my problem. And now it’s your problem — because I’m in your city.”
The steady stream of speakers continued. Each man, woman, or child that spoke their truth seemed to embolden the next. A woman who came with the Texas Organizing Project summed it up best, with Julio Acosta acting as her translator.
“I came here today because I am afraid laws like this will come to my city. I cannot tell you the whole story of how I came to the United States. The truth is, I fled from a repressive government. Now I am surprised to find that the people of the United States support laws that make me feel like I’ve gone back in time,” the speaker shared.
If we had never entered a 287(g) agreement, an estimated 940 families would never have been ripped apart. I say “estimate” because the only available data on arrests is from 2010 — the city has refused to release any other arrest data to the public. The data from 2010 serves as an explanation as to why Carrollton is the only city in Texas with this agreement: only two out of the sixty-seven people deported were accused of felony crimes. I say “accused” because there is no trial; there is no justice. In contrast, data shows an alarming number of deportations occurred after traffic ticket warrants. These people are not criminals. They are my neighbors. Deported feels like departed.
Nolan Adams is the Founder of Carrollton Citizens’ Movement.