Deported: An American Division – Photo Exhibit and Panel Discussion

Held at the Central Reading Room of the Melville Library at Stony Brook University, N.Y. Second event for the studies of justice and supported by the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center and Center for the Study of Inequalities, Social Justice, and Policy.

Aim of this Blog Post: Where are we on the topic of deportation today in American society and what does it mean for people seeking refuge in the United States? Who are subject to the threat of deportation in the last two years and how has former policies changed on the issue?

Figures on the Panel 

Richard Koubek: Community Outreach Coordinator for Long Island Jobs with Justice

Nancy Hiemstra: Assistant professor working at the Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies at Stony Brook University, N.Y and Author of the forthcoming book with the University of Georgia: Detain and Deport: The Chaotic U.S. Immigration Enforcement Regime, whose subject seeks to “[identify] the embodied consequences of destination countries’ immigration enforcement policies in countries of migrant origin, the reverberations of U.S. migrant detention and deportation practices in Ecuador, and critically assessing security and deterrence logics behind punitive policies.” 

Irma Solis: Suffolk County Chapter Director for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Rachael Woolf: Detroit-based independent visual journalist who has been published in the New York Times, CBS, Bloomberg, U.S. News, Education Week, Detroit Free Press, and Detroit News

Christopher Sellers: Director of the Center for the Study of Inequality and Social Justice. Earned Ph.D. from Yale University in 1992.

The Breakdown

The Immigration system of the United States has been, for decades, a torrent for both public and political debate. It’s faults, laid to bare by news corporations, social media outlets, and personal narratives has proliferated different arguments which gears either toward anti-immigration or pro-immigration policies.

Deported: An American Division gives attention to a number of personal narratives that articulate the struggles of immigrants through video and film. The event stresses, through illustration, the defects of the current immigration system and the wrongs inflicted upon hard-working laborers who give a boost to the American economy.

The panel discussion has acutely focused on addressing the defects of the system within the last two years as the start-point because of the profound agenda toward immigration integrated by President Donald J. Trump.


Nancy Hiemstra gave limelight to one of the few initiatives betrothed as a practical method of fixing the blunders of the current system: The Janus Operation, implemented in 2018. “Operation Janus is used to identify lies on the applications of naturalized American citizens and re-opens closed cases that would subject people to the possibility of being stripped of their citizenship and being deported.” Nancy also noted that temporary statuses were struck down and no legal initiatives were established for the consequences of expiations.

The panelists dreaded the wide-ranging interrelated chain of stipulations interposed within immigration laws to ‘modify’ how immigrants earned certain statuses in America. Richard Koubek and Nancy Hiemstra were at the forefront of the argument being presented to an attentive audience of faculty and students at Stony Brook.

Richard: If charged with a criminal offense, you can be deported; If perceived a threat by local authorities, you can be deported. Administrative warrants, rather than judicial warrants, is used as the basis for deportation so local law enforcement could report you to U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) and detain you.

The current climate in regard to immigration has embedded resentment among many citizens toward ICE. This apparent resentment has curtailed and wrecked the federal agency’s reputation since it’s founding in 2003.  Indeed, Richard went as far as to describe ICE’s activities as “Nazi quality.”

Nancy: Collaboration between local police and ICE introduces new forms of local cruelty. Feelings of alienation have developed through violent arrests by ICE agents for minor crimes and in many cases, the immigration enforcement officers do not allow communication between the detained immigrant and their family.

Irma Solis, upon hearkening this progressing case, was poised to substantiate these general charges with the disclosure of a case she handled in the past while representing the New York Civil Liberties Union (No specific mention was given as to the identity of the persons involved).

Irma recollected a Latin American family from Long Island, N.Y. who went to visit a family member upstate. During transit, the family receives a message from the family member who they were to sojourn saying that he/she has been detained by ICE. He/she was prohibited by the enforcement officers to disclose his location of detainment. It took the family, who were far from home, weeks to discover the whereabouts of their lost family member. There is much speculation to be made as to the events that occurred within Irma’s recollection, but as the case is on-going, I came to the conclusion that it should at least be shed light upon.

To conclude…

This event serves to paint the relativity of immigration to the larger social, cultural, and economic constructs that support American society. It recognizes the prospects of an abuse of power and the various forms in which it could camouflage itself into. The event also shows just how weakened the American immigration system has become in connection to these abuses that elude the generally accepted norms and principles of this great democracy.

From what is gathered, deeper research must be accounted for as to who would benefit from these abuses. Irma suggests that because the jails accumulate more money confining immigrants with each passing day, it may serve to be profitable for certain abuses to linger.

In a personal reflection, I will note there is not one American (aside from the indigenous Native American peoples) whose ancestry does not derive from some other part of the world. Do not those who come after us deserve the same opportunity of a better life just as our own ancestors did? Of course, that is the pursuit minus the blood spilt and the forced migrations attributed to the establishment of earlier settlements in the former centuries.

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