“We are on fire for justice.” Attorney Steve Sacco’s speech at the Feb. 10 #IStandWithRavi Rally in NYC

My name is Steven Sacco, I am an immigration lawyer, I defend people against deportation and against ICE.  When I’m working I must be polite to ICE because they have my client’s life in their hands.  But I am not at work today.  That means I am not here to be polite, I am here to be honest.

ICE is an anti-freedom, anti-family, pro-violence institution.  They oppose, with the violence of deportation, the freedom to migrate.  They oppose, with shackles and prison, the freedom to better your life.  By breaking down doors and neglecting bodies in prison they seek to destroy families. And ICE is guilty of collusion. When they deport people to countries where ICE knows they will be murdered by gangsters and despots, they collude with those regimes, they are complicit in their crimes.

The imprisoned are not detained, they are interned.  The interned are not “in custody,” they are the disappeared.  And they are not asked to pay bond, they are coerced to pay ransom.  ICE does not implement policy it dispenses terror.  It is thuggery masquerading as bureaucracy.  Just because its agenda is sanctioned by law does not mean it is not also morally depraved.  We will not pay respect to institutions that do not respect human life, and we will not see legitimacy in the enforcement of unjust law.

ICE is engaged in a campaign of violence against our neighbors and loved ones, they are executing a war on liberty; the time has come to call evil out as evil; and we will not apologize for naming brutality.

ICE officers have told me to my face on more than one occasion that they are just doing their jobs. They are, that is the problem.  But I don’t want to hear another ICE thug tell me they are doing their job; if what you do is a job than making orphans must be a career.  Please, don’t tell me you’re just doing a job.  I don’t care what you tell yourself to sleep at night, don’t share with me the way you euphamize to your children about what you do every day; I’m not interested in hearing you quote Eichmann when he was on trial in Jerusalem.

ICE will say that I am slandering them; I am not, I tell the truth today; but ICE has surely slandered my friends and clients for too long. To call someone illegal is to threaten violence against their body and violence is the shelter of cowards.  A person like Ravi Ragbir is illegal the same way Rosa Parks was illegal.  Ravi is deportable the way a woman’s vote used to be illegal.  Ravi is detainable the same way a same-sex marriage used to be illegal.  Being undocumented is an act of civil disobedience; we are against ICE because we are against violence, that is why nonviolence is at the center of our movement.

So we call upon all ICE personnel, to do the right thing and resign from your jobs; we call upon lawmakers to recognize, in their discourse and legislation, an unambiguous commitment to abolish ICE.  All ICE operations should be defunded, any law that empowers ICE should be repealed.  You cannot be against violence and for ICE’s existence; you cannot be for liberty and not denounce ICE entirely; I want to hear all elected and community leaders repeat these words: “ICE has got to go.” The political exile of deportation and internment camps of detention must end. We’re not interested in reform, we want abolition.  Don’t give us platitudes against ICE, we want real freedom from their tyranny.  I am tired of defending my client’s right to survive, it is ICE’s turn to justify why it should be allowed to exist at all.

No more manners or apologies – I’ll accept only the ugly truth: ICE’s agenda is evil and we will tolerate nothing less than its total legal abolition.

ICE, with their lust for violence, and their contempt for liberty, may come for my clients and my friends, they have that power, for now, but with our non-violence, and with our words, and especially with our words, we are coming for ICE.

They may be ICE, but we are on fire for justice.


Photo by Erik McGregor