Statue of Liberty shown cuffed and arrested by immigration officials in new mural
Mural in downtown Las Vegas by British artist Izaac Zevalking meant to draw attention to America’s founding by immigrants
A mural of the Statue of Liberty, handcuffed and slammed on the hood of a police cruiser, is drawing attention in downtown Las Vegas, a day after a top Trump administration official in charge of immigration suggested the statue’s famous inscription be amended to include a test of means.
Under the pseudonym Recycled Propaganda, artist and British immigrant Izaac Zevalking painted the image on a wall late last month, before citizenship and immigration services director Ken Cuccinelli – jokingly – suggested amending Emma Lazarus’s sonnet inscribed on the statue to read: “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”
Zevalking told Las Vegas station KTNV: “My purpose of doing what I did with the Statue of Liberty is to try and draw analogies with America’s past and how it was founded and how it was largely built by immigrants, to really make an analogy out of that so that people can apply that to contemporary society and contemporary issues a little bit more.”
Since Cuccinelli made his suggestion to NPR, administration officials have sought to play down its significance.
The White House adviser Stephen Miller said he wouldn’t “get off into a whole thing about history here”. But he added: “The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later and is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”
Still, the exchange underscores the change last week in administration policy toward immigrants applying for permanent residency status or green card. Under the new rules, immigration services will be able to reject applicants who have spent more than a year on food stamps, Medicaid or other public benefits.
Asked which immigrants will now be welcome to the US, Cuccinelli said: “All immigrants who can stand on their own two feet, self-sufficient, pull themselves up by their boot straps – as in the American tradition.”
But critics of the rule fear it will be used to prevent poorer immigrants from ever setting foot in the US.
“Aliens will be barred from entering the United States if they are found likely to become public charges,” revealed a White House fact sheet. “Aliens in the United States who are found likely to become public charges will also be barred from adjusting their immigration status.”
The Migration Policy Institute estimated the change could result in more than half of all family-based green card applicants being denied. About 800,000 green cards were issued in 2016.
America today exists in a state of anxiety over the threat of immigration raids
If the object of constant threats of raids is fear, it’s working – making communities less secure, which builds more fear
The shoe drops, and everything falls quiet. Seven hundred workers were rounded up at poultry packinghouses in Mississippi last week, and fear shuddered through immigrants across America. Nobody is talking. Not Ice. Not the meatpackers or their trade groups. Not the people in Storm Lake, Iowa, where 3,000 people work at Tyson pork and turkey slaughter plants – most of them from Latin America.
Legally in the US or not, everyone waits for the other shoe to drop.
That’s America today, from Mississippi to Iowa in rural communities living off food processing wages. We exist in a state of anxiety.
The raids reminded us, in this north-west Iowa town of about 15,000, of when the federales raided the pork plant in 1996, then run by IBP. Asians and Mexicans alike were penned up in the afternoon sun like hogs awaiting slaughter, their hands in plastic cuffs. The next morning, Julio Barrosso, the teacher’s pet, was gone from the second-grade classroom. Nobody heard a word of where he went or why. He was just gone, until my reporter son, Tom, caught up with him just about a year ago, 31 years old and feeding his family by working in a chicken slaughterhouse in Guadalajara, Mexico. He wanted to be somebody in the United States, a cop or a teacher. He dreams of returning to Storm Lake.
A school superintendent in Mississippi replayed the scene for the television interview: trying to find out where those boys and girls were after the surprising arrival of troops in search of the undocumented, to let them know that school was a safe harbor, that they had nothing to fear.
Unfortunately, they have everything to fear.
Fear of returning to the violence of Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador – or Jalisco, where the New Generation Cartel in Guadalajara is vying with the government for control. Fear of leaving the security of Storm Lake, a pretty little place where the police do not arrest brown people just for being here. Even those with papers are nervous. They heard about the citizen hung up in Texas detention trying to prove he was legitimate. When the presidential candidates show up, only the boldest Latinos come out over concern they might be seen or hassled. Julian Castro said he heard about that all the time.
The police say that the eyes and ears of immigrants at their service have faded into the shadows since Donald Trump took office. The constant threats of raids have their cumulative effect. If the object is fear, it is working, actually making communities less secure, which in turn builds more fear.
After the raid in 1996, the meatpacking industry went on the E-Verify system that checks identity numbers against a federal database. Tyson is on the E-Verify system, so we would assume their employees to be safe. Yet the companies in Mississippi were using E-Verify and got raided. Dairy operators think they are using E-Verify until they find out the hard way that their help is illegal. So if you are in a meatpacking town, it makes you wonder. The meat industry hasn’t been targeted lately. Ice says this raid was in the works for a year. You hear about the vegetable grower in Nebraska or the cement company in Iowa, but not JBS or Tyson or Smithfield, the big packers. Tyson insists that its workforce is entirely documented. Without them, the hogs do not get slaughtered. Good help is almost impossible to get in rural places these days – that’s all you hear from the construction contractors. Tyson offers a $2,000 signing bonus and still goes wanting for help.
Life goes on. You go to work and register for school until that day arrives, as it did last week in Mississippi. And then everyone just disappears as if they never were here, like Julio.
And a few who can afford to do so have started to stand up. They approach the candidates – especially the Dreamers do – pressing for relief. Mothers sob in the arms of candidates. A Dreamer from the tiny town of Belmond, Iowa, long home to Latinos who work in egg processing, sought solace on Friday from Kamala Harris during a campaign stop at La Juanita’s, a Mexican restaurant in Storm Lake. They all promise relief, which cannot come soon enough, just so they can go to college and work to support their families in Storm Lake.
A few weeks ago a crowd of about 75, mainly Latino, showed up at a city park to hold a vigil over immigrant detention. They vowed to get organized and vote. “Trump gives us a rare opportunity,” said the former city councilwoman Sarah Huddleston, a Mexican immigrant who became a citizen. “It’ll be interesting to see whether this translates into more Latino voters, more Latinos running for local office. A president like Trump only prompts the rest of us to rise up.”
A few, anyhow. The others wait.