Yomarel Justiniano, ICE. Foto tomada de
Yomarel Justiniano, agent of ICE. Photo taken from

The Latino face of ICE

A recent article on a Latino immigration agent, prepared by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) press office, is the perfect opportunity to remember…


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"ICE has a Hispanic face." That was the conclusion reached by a Univision report last July after the television network followed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to an arrest operation of undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles, California.

And yes, "la migra" has so many Latin faces in its ranks (perhaps it is the American organization with more Latinos hired). Precisely one of those faces was highlighted - like a television star - a week ago by the press office of that entity. It is Yomarel Justiniano, an attractive brunette with Puerto Rican roots who has detained and deported undocumented immigrants for about 12 years, first from El Paso and now from Orlando.

Under the title "deportation officer employs a combination of skill and empathy", ICE explained the day to day of the Hispanic agent. "Justiniano's work requires skill, compassion and flexibility," the article says as a preamble to the following: the fulfillment of her duty. "When necessary, Justiniano arrests individuals, takes them into custody and places them in removal proceedings”.

Agent Justiniano is a member of the ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) in Orlando, Florida. The team in charge of seeking and prosecuting "illegal criminals who, at times, must be arrested in their own homes." According to Justinian's account, quoted in the ICE article, "the challenge [of his work] is that you don’t know what is behind that door”.

Perhaps knowing what is "behind that door" is easier than the Hispanic agent recognizes. If one starts from the premise that no one likes to be an undocumented immigrant, possibly the most frequent scenario - "on the other side of the door" - is a Latin immigrant whose only crime was that he had no choice but to escape of poverty and / or violence in their country of origin.

Marc J. Moore, director of the Miami Area Office, states in the article that Officer Justiniano's work is "essential to the team", although without further details. Perhaps he refers to the fact that she must sometimes lead undocumented immigrants to federal court, or perhaps-as she says-because her work "serves to have good relations with local law enforcement."

In other words, ICE is not just arrests and deportations; it is also "networking" (especially between federal and local authorities). And what better way to do so than a pretty Latino face to make friends as demanded by Attorney General Jeff Sessions?

Justiniano is one of the 4,214 Hispanic officers of ICE, 21.5 percent of the total force of that agency. Latinos are the second-largest "ethnic group in ICE, after US whites (11,673, 59.5 percent), nearly twice as many African-American officers and four times as many as those of Asian descent, according to figures collected by Univisión News. At this point, the reporter who writes this note asks "what will their mothers think?”.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration plans to increase ICE's footprint by 10,000 more units to carry out its promise to chase every undocumented immigrant out of the country. And the way things are going, it seems like they will accomplish it. Last June, the immigration authority arrested 13,914 people, marking the highest point in detentions during the first six months of the year, while federal cases continue to accumulate cases (610,000) pending a court decision

More than a few Latinos condemn Hispanic ICE agents for taking part in a force that persecutes their people. But not everything is bad, the fact that there are Hispanic faces - probably children of immigrants who were once undocumented - in ICE is also enlightening: it serves to clarify that Latinos are not a homogenous group because we do not share the same customs, we do not eat the same meals, we do not even speak the same language and, of course, we do not pursue a single "American Dream".


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