Study Shows Ohio is Worst State For Undocumented Immigrants
Ohio immigrants work hard and raise families in one of the toughest states to live in as an undocumented person. After the Trump Administration expanded deportations of immigrants with no criminal record, it became even worse.
We need to wake up and realize what is happening, in our own communities, to our neighbors, coworkers, and friends. It’s hypocritical and immoral for us to benefit from immigrants’ hard work while keeping them down, in constant fear of deportation.
A 2015 report from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research; UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America; and UC Global Health Institute documented Ohio’s worst-in-the-US record on welcoming immigrants:
The report focuses on state policies as of 2014 in nine categories across five areas: public health and welfare, higher education, labor and employment, access to driver licensing and government ID card programs, and enforcement of the federal Secure Communities program — all of which influence the health of immigrants and their families.
The researchers rated each state’s policies as “inclusive” (supporting health and well-being) or “exclusive” (harming health and well-being). Scores, which ranged from +1 to -1 for each category, were then tallied for an overall rating for each state. The average total score was -2.5 points.
Ohio’s ranking? Dead last. From charging immigrants exorbitant college tuition rates to blocking access to a basic driver’s license and suppressing labor rights, our policies and actors collaborate to keep immigrants in the margins.
A 2017 expose in The New Yorker about worker abuse at Case Farms, a major Ohio poultry processor, provided even more graphic examples of how this is playing out in real people’s lives. At Case Farms — and other factories and processing plants across the state — workers’ bodies are being treated as machines, pressed to work harder, longer, and faster until they no longer function.
America’s Voice Ohio also published a report in 2015 detailing some of the specific factors that contribute to a police state for immigrants in Ohio. As an example:
An influx in federal funding over the years has paid for new border patrol stations with jurisdiction over Ohio, and an explosion of new border patrol agents who have begun operating in the interior. There aren’t a lot of unauthorized immigrants crossing from Canada into northern Ohio by way of Lake Erie.
So, border agents are increasingly coming into local towns and communities to arrest immigrants — many of whom are settled and long-term residents with homes, businesses, children, and spouses that were born here. Border patrol agents have been working hand in glove with the Ohio Highway Patrol and local police, seeking out immigrants well beyond the physical border.
The combination of repressive policies and regressive treatment of immigrants in Ohio is not accidental or incidental. It’s a form of control. We are essentially saying: you are welcome to work here, but don’t raise your head or you will risk everything: your job, income, home, family, and future. This transactional attitude toward immigrants is inhumane and cruel. It also violates our values.
The situation has only gotten bleaker since Donald Trump became President, and federal immigration agents were told to deport as many immigrants as possible. Any notion of common sense law enforcement priorities — like, focusing on people who pose some sort of safety risk — was thrown out the window. It became a race to see which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office could ramp up its deportation numbers the fastest, not which office could arrest the most dangerous individuals.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: “in the ICE Detroit region that includes all of Ohio and Michigan, 36 percent more people were deported in the 2017 fiscal year than the last.” The number of people without criminal records arrested by ICE has more than doubled in the two-state region.
Rebecca Adducci, the Detroit ICE Field Office Director who is responsible for deportations in Michigan and Ohio, has racked up quite a track record destroying families. She focuses on the easy targets — the people on Orders of Supervision who are trying to comply with the government’s demands, but remain at risk of deportation.
So many of Adducci’s cases have drawn national and international attention for their particular cruelty, including from the Washington Post editorial board. Adducci has a clear appetite for destruction of American families, and a lot of help from Ohio’s state and local police.
Public News Service-Ohio and Media in the Public Interest just published a piece showing that Ohio’s state and local police work hand in glove with immigration officials. Using government data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, the piece reveals that “detainer” requests from ICE to local police are way up — despite Constitutional challenges to their use — and Ohio police are going along with them.
While one would expect state and local law enforcement to work with federal agents on issues like national security and drug trafficking, it’s another thing entirely to enforce civil immigration laws. We’re talking about people being pulled over for a broken taillight, or some other pretext. What should have been an ordinary traffic stop — or no stop at all — turns into a deportation arrest at the side of the road, and the last time a father may see his kids.
Not only are Ohio police helping to break up families, but they are also walking right into 4th Amendment violations.
Americans need to know what is happening in our communities, with our tax dollars. And they also need to know that the immigration system doesn’t work the way we would expect.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer published a comprehensive Q&A in response to that age-old question “Why don’t they just get legal?” The short take? They would if they could, but they can’t:
But under the current system, an undocumented worker in the United States has no options to become legal. He or she would have to leave the United States and start the process to enter the country from the beginning, a process that could take decades or may not even be possible.
Last summer when I was working in Willard to try to stop the deportation of Jesus Lara, a local father, I was struck by acts of sympathy and kindness that far outweighed the inevitable anti-immigrant attacks. From the gas station attendant who helped us gather petition signatures, to the woman who used some of her food stamps to buy water for Jesus’ kids, Willard residents stood up for this hardworking, Mexican-born man and his four American children.
The experience showed me, yet again, that the feelings of many Ohioans belie our worst-in-the-nation ranking on welcoming immigrants.
And this means we can change.