By Bill Mefford
If you are a parent, imagine for a moment that you wake up on the first day of school for your children. The first day is a big day in our home. It is filled with excitement and nervousness. Kids are nervous about the classes they will take, the friends they will see again after months of not seeing them, and the new routines they will develop. The night before school starts each year we have taken our boys to their schools, prayed for them and for the teachers and school administrators, and we selected a passage in Scripture that every morning we will recite together before they go to school. It is a holy time.
So, you wake up, take your kids to school and think about how fast your kids are growing up. Your thoughts are on them all morning when, around noon, you suddenly see Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, moving through your work place, surround it from all sides so as to prevent escape from you and any of your co-workers, and your stomach just drops because you know why they are there. You know that they are there for you.
Though you have lived in your community for decades, though you have contributed to your community by being a good neighbor, perhaps coaching the soccer team, being a deacon at your church, caring for your elderly neighbors in your neighborhood, you know the hundreds of ICE officers that have showed up at your workplace are coming for you. And you can’t stop thinking that on this first day of school, your kids will come home and will hope to tell you about their new teachers and new friends and new feelings and you will not be there. You likely will never be there in that place for them again. Not in this country, not in this community, not in this home. Never again.
I honestly cannot imagine how hurtful and completely unnecessary this experience was for the nearly 700 migrants in Mississippi on Wednesday. I would likely be consumed with an aching, sick feeling of being separated from my children, my church, and my community. And oh the shame of being arrested and detained and set for deportation. My freedom gone, my hopes for a new life for my kids dashed, and I had done nothing wrong besides loving my family enough to try and provide a good life for them.
Of course, Wednesday was the same day that the leader of the ICE raids, donald trump, traveled to Dayton and El Paso to “comfort” the victims of two horrific gun massacres, one at the hands of a domestic terrorist who was inspired and incited to deadly violence by the Xenophobe-in-Chief himself. The timing of executing these mass raids would not be lost on me as trump is visiting the victims he is partially responsible for creating. The timing of these raids is also intriguing as it comes on such an important day in the lives of my children - their first day of school. I would be pondering all of this as I am being processed, along with hundreds of my other co-workers.
Yes, this is what terror looks like and feels like. When a dominant power randomly uses your life and the lives of so many people you love, as an example to strike terror in the lives of migrants in the rest of the country, there is nothing else t call it but state-sponsored terror. Migrants in other parts of the country are now fearing their first day of school. They warily eye trump’s travel schedule because that might tip ICE’s hand as to where they might strike next. Everything takes on a dire meaning. You are used to looking over your shoulder when you go to public places. You have stopped calling the police when crimes are committed against you or your neighbors. There are domestic abuse situations that you can’t call about so you do all you can to provide shelter and refuge for the victims. You have been robbed of your paycheck previously because people who want to steal know you cannot call the police, yet you hear trump talk about the dangers of crime. The only crimes you know of are the crimes committed against you and members of your community.
When state-sponsored terror is being committed, this is part of the propaganda that surrounds it. And you don’t have a voice because you have been deemed “an illegal.” No one gives a damn what you think. The media rarely if ever counters the baseless claims made by trump and his fellow racist Republicans that you are the cause of crime and every ill the United States is facing. While multiple members of his campaign and administration are under investigation - including him - and some are even in jail, he rattles on about crime and you haven’t even had a speeding ticket. But you only want to be with your family, especially with your kids. That’s all you want. You don’t really want to be heard; you don’t need a platform. Until, that is, you have been arrested and detained and are being readied to one day be deported back to a country you have not seen in decades, away from your kids and community; away from your life.
You have no power over your life. You never really have. You have only tried to do the right thing, live the right way, contribute to your community in any way you can because maybe the Creators of Terror will see you are a good person, that you are not breaking any laws, and that you are a proud resident of the United States. But Wednesday you realize that the Creators of Terror have zero interest in what you have done, how you have contributed. They do not care about you or your family or your children. You are caught in a very dark political drama that you did not create or ask to be a part of. You have no power over your life.
There is nothing that can be done to please the Creators of Terror. They have a deep and abiding hatred of you simply because you are you. You are a migrant. You are the cause of evil in this country.
And yes, 300 migrants who were rounded up ended up being released, but this is part of the terror. In fact, why did they arrest you and process you and then release you - after your kids thought they would never see you again - if only to show you that you have no power over your life. You belong to the Creators of Terror and your life is as meaningless to them as those they will deport and forever separate them from their children and the lives they have built. If you are released your children will forever be scarred for the hours they had no idea if they would ever see you or your partner again. If you are released and you stay for a day, a week, a month, or years to come you will never be at ease. You will never be truly joyful again.
This is what state-sponsored terror looks like.
The result of the raids are the separation of families, the scars of terror on your life and the lives of your children and your community and the lives of your migrant sisters and brothers across the country. The result of the raids are a deepening hatred and distrust of important institutions in our society like law enforcement and schools.
Your sick feeling in your stomach turns to rage at the Creators of Terror who treat you like an animal; worse than an animal.
You are angry and frightened because they know you now. They know where you work (though you will not work there anymore), they know where you live, and they know who your children are.
This day had started with so much anticipation and hope, but this was just another Wednesday in the United States of America where the government terrorizes local communities because they are black or brown, because they are poor, and because they are undocumented.
This is state sponsored terror.