With police profiling of Black transgender women as sex workers and Latino communities profiled as undocumented, both immigrant and LGBTQ communities of color in New Orleans are heavily criminalized with their right to move safely and freely in our own city compromised for fear of law enforcement. Whether it is “Driving while Latino” or “Walking while transgender,” BreakOUT! and the Workers’ Center for Racial Justice project Congress of Day Laborers, know that our movements are intrinsically linked, and that our successes are dependent on one another. Perhaps the most blatant indicator of this is the community-forced closure of the notoriously violent privately-run Jena Juvenile Justice Center in Jena, LA in 2000 that was only to be later reopened in 2007 as LaSalle Detention Center, a federal immigration detention center run by the very same private correctional company. From Vice to ICE seeks to give deeper understanding of the James Baldwin quote, “For if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”
In 2011, BreakOUT!, a membership-based organization made up of predominately transgender and gay-identified youth of color and the Workers Center for Racial Justice, which unites undocumented immigrant and African American workers, launched Vice to ICE. At that time, Vice to ICE mainly focused on member-to-member exchanges through storycircles, civic engagement strategies, and joint work with the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition.
Soon thereafter, with increased criminalization of survival strategies of both membership bases, the development of a new immigration enforcement program in New Orleans called the Criminal Alien Removal Initiative (CARI), quota-based arrest practices in both ICE and the New Orleans Police Department, and more members whose lives are at the intersections of race, immigration status, and LGBTQ-identity, the need to expand Vice to ICE became clear.
In 2014, BreakOUT! and the Congreso began the more intentional work to leverage this partnership for larger structural change to end the criminalization of our communities and build a transformative movement to serve as a roadmap for the larger U.S. South.
Despite there being greater law enforcement collaboration across agencies, private patrols in the French Quarter (including an app that encourages racial profiling by residents), our collaboration has only grown stronger. BreakOUT! members continue to deal with harassment, profiling, and street violence. Similarly, Congreso members are facing increased deportations, including an intensifying focus on deporting undocumented people with criminal backgrounds. Both membership bases have difficulty finding employment and accessing education and other opportunities. Both organizations continue to hear stories of ICE officials driving in packs of unmarked vans to “round up” undocumented people, including mothers of small children, often resulting in their disappearance, and abuses against transgender people in ICE custody. While we are slowly chipping away at policies that allow for this increased criminalization and disregard of human dignity, our partnership has been transformative both in terms of the practical aspects of our work to the personal evolution that we see with our bases. To see one’s struggle in someone else is not only therapeutic, it is empowering—our members have taught us this time and time again.
WHAT IS VICE TO ICE?
Vice to ICE started as the name for the relationship between BreakOUT! and the Congress of Day Laborers (or the Congreso), two membership based organizations in New Orleans, LA, that involved story-circles and action solidarity. At the time, Vice officers in New Orleans were targeting Black transgender young women and profiling people as being involved in the sex trade. They were raiding hotels where homeless LGBTQ youth of color lived and charging people with Solicitation of Crimes Against Nature and prostitution.
At the same time, the police were using ICE as translators whenever a Spanish-speaking person was profiled and stopped on the street or in a car. They were also using ICE as translators for domestic violence calls and collaborating for huge sweeps and raids of Latinx people targeted as being undocumented.
Vice to ICE is now the name we use for our campaigns or areas of our work that recognize the intersections between our struggles for liberation, as well as our intentional building with those whose lives are at the intersections of these identities- LGBTQ undocumented communities in New Orleans.
While both organizations have had campaign victories since this time, the main issues are the same- criminalization of our communities- which includes the profiling, targeting, and removal of people deemed unwelcome in our own cities and communities (whether through incarceration, push out, or deportation) and our shared struggle for the simple freedom to walk down the street without fear.
FULL TOOLKIT AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD SOON!
FEATURING OVER 30 PAGES OF:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHY THIS TOOLKIT
ABOUT THE ORGANIZATIONS
POLITICAL AND CULTURAL LANDSCAPE
NAVIGATING LANGUAGE BARRIERS & ICEBREAKERS
CULTURE CLASH! COMPONENTS OF OUR WORK TOGETHER
ARTS AND VISUALS
DIRECT ACTIONS AND SUPPORTING CAMPAIGNS
RURAL POLICING TARGETS MAP
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