Detroit-area immigration lawyer reports police state arrest of Palestinian migrant in Dearborn

Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out a police-state raid, arresting a Palestinian migrant in Dearborn, Michigan, home to the largest Arab American population in the United States. In recent weeks, thousands have taken to the streets in Dearborn to protest against Israeli war crimes in Gaza, and the arrest took place as a deliberate attempt to intimidate the population and suppress broad support for the struggle of the people of Palestine. 

ICE agents conducting an arrest in Philadelphia on February 18, 2020 [Photo: ice.gov]

I am an immigration attorney based in the Detroit area and a member of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) and International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE). Last week I received an urgent request for pro bono legal support for a Palestinian who had been arrested by ICE. The arrest raid had the character of an operation that would take place under a dictatorship. 

The manner in which the arrest took place also indicates it was part of a high-level decision to intimidate and block opposition to US support for Israeli war crimes. Efforts to intimidate Palestinian people in the US have been reported by various non-profits and include reports that agents from the national security apparatus are surveilling mosques in an attempt to intimidate opposition to Israel.

What happened in Dearborn is as follows: ICE agents staked out the individual’s home for many hours, intimidating the entire neighborhood with their presence. When the individual left home, ICE followed them and carried out a high-visibility arrest involving over a half dozen vehicles and many agents. Such operations are not conducted on the whim of local officers, they are are directed from Homeland Security headquarters in Washington D.C.

When I was informed of this, I began attempting to reach my client. Agents at the detention center acknowledged the individual was there, but refused to let me speak to them. I called dozens of times—literally—and was not put through. It took me almost five days to get through to them.

I have never had such difficulty reaching a detainee, even when clients are detained at rural jails along the US-Mexico border. This was not a result of incompetence by ICE or prison authorities, it was a decision to essentially hold the detainee incommunicado for nearly a week.

When I finally was able to speak to my client, a court date had been set days earlier without anyone having informed me, leaving little time to prepare. Agents had already conducted interviews without me present in flagrant violation of the Fifth Amendment right to due process.

This cannot be allowed to happen! These types of police-state methods will be used against the entire population, immigrant and non-immigrant alike. It is urgently necessary that the working class mobilize to stop the attacks on Palestinians and Arab Americans.