Anti-ICE protests take aim at secondary targets

Tactic centers on guilt by association

ACTIVISTS UNFURLED a large banner off the Green Monster at Fenway park Thursday night, with the words “No ICE, no prisons, no more cages.”

The move, which got the immigration activists booted out of the park, is one of many recent protests in the Bay State that attempt to draw attention to the border crisis either directly or by shaming locals who are cooperating with government agencies involved in enforcement efforts, such as US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Members of the two groups involved in the Fenway park protest — Deeper Than Water and Black and Pink — were objecting to an annual event held in Boston by the American Correctional Association. The 149-year-old organization is one of the accrediting agencies for ICE detention facilities, which are currently being filled with people who crossed the southern border illegally or are attempting to obtain asylum.

Deeper than Water has been running a campaign to get hotel guests at Boston Marriott Copley Place, Hilton Boston Back Bay, and Sheraton Boston Hotel to recognize that the hotels are providing housing and venue space to the embattled correctional association, arguing that the organization is supporting ICE by taking agency money.

On Sunday, the group is holding a rally to demand the American Correctional Association end all involvement with ICE and Customs and Border Patrol. For good measure, the group, which has over 20 endorsing organizations, is asking for the state to stop cooperating with immigration enforcement agencies.

Similar-style protests have popped up around town. At Northeastern University, students and alumni recently protested the presence of officials from Customs and Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security on campus for a two-day security data workshop. There have also been rumblings about the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, which is affiliated with the Boston Police Department, for giving ICE and other immigration enforcement agencies access to information about people with various immigrant legal statuses despite the city’s claim to have sanctuary-like policies.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Perhaps the most effective guilt-by-association protest targeted Wayfair. Thousands of employees and customers descended upon Boston over a $200,000 contract between the furniture maker and an immigrant holding facility in Texas. While the business ended up giving money randomly to the Red Cross to soften the PR blow, the ralliers got many people to cancel orders and boycott Wayfair.

All in all, these protests are not having much of an impact on the larger debate over immigration, but they are an attempt to spread awareness, to bring other parties into the fray, and to demonstrate how immigration enforcement cannot be conducted in isolation.