Last April, the Immigration Reform Roundtable of the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad presented a public program entitled “War on Immigrants? What’s Going On?”

At the time, we were concerned that people might think we were being overly dramatic. The events of the past five months have offered distressing proof that our government is, in fact, waging a war against people of color trying to escape life-threatening situations in Central America and elsewhere:

Family separations, increased raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, xenophobic rhetoric from the president (directly echoed in statements made by mass shooters), an attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, and a series of executive orders and other policies clearly designed to make it exceedingly difficult for immigrant and refugee families to legally come this country.

Contrary to the claims made, the goal of these actions is not to make our borders safe or to save American jobs. The truth is that immigrants commit fewer crimes than natural-born citizens and generally take jobs that U.S. citizens will not take. Immigrants also establish many new businesses in their communities, paying taxes and creating jobs.

We believe that this treatment of immigrants is immoral and contrary to everything America stands for. But we felt called to do more than just condemn these actions and register our horror at the way our government is treating innocent people of color. We wanted to understand why. And the more we researched the subject, the more we saw that one driving force behind these hateful policies is greed. Companies are making millions of dollars by operating and supporting the detention centers that several observers have described as concentration camps.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, two experts will help us follow the money. Felicia Arrigia of Appalachian State University and Alissa Ellis of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina will explain how ICE financing affects our state and our counties. We will provide an overview of several sectors in which enormous profits are being made across the country, no simple matter in an opaque system dominated by private companies and subcontractors.

We will look at six different areas: technology, transportation, private detention, bail bonds, health and welfare, and nonprofit organizations. Behind each of the stories you have heard about children being housed in cages, detainees being denied soap and other basic necessities, and parents not knowing where their children are is a system that is making some people suffer and other people rich.

Despite the impression you might get from news coverage, the war on immigrants is not just being waged at our southern border. It is being waged right here in Greensboro, with ICE raids and other policies putting families in a state of fear. And, like all wars, its fallout extends far beyond those immediately affected. Billions of our tax dollars are being spent to terrorize, separate and imprison innocent families and children. This is not what America is supposed to do.

Please come hear the information we will share Thursday and decide for yourself whether you are comfortable having your taxpayer dollars spent in this manner.

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P. Whitney Vanderwerff is a member of the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad who actively takes part in its Immigration Policy Reform Roundtable. Gary Kenton is a longtime community activist and an adjunct instructor of communications at N.C. A&T.

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