Siham Byah, a recently deported activist and mother from Boston, gave a press conference from Rabat, Morocco, on March 1. She described her case and presented her demands to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
While at a routine check-in with immigration services in November 2017, Byah was detained. The DCF took her 8-year-old son, Naseem, into custody, despite Byah’s wishes that her partner care for him. The two have still not been reunited. Among Byah’s demands were a clear plan for reunification with her son, mental health support for him and an investigation into the irregularities in her case.
At the press conference, Byah stated, “It is my belief, as well as that of my attorney, and all involved, that my extradition was nothing more than a low blow agreement between the Moroccan and American governments as a retaliation for my political opinions and actions.”
An outspoken activist in Boston, Byah has been involved with the February 20 movement/USA chapter since 2011. This movement arose in Morocco that year during what is known as the “Arab Spring.” Her deportation is part of a larger racist campaign of terror by ICE and the Trump administration targeting migrant activists.
In January, ICE detained New York activist Ravi Ragbir, although a massive outpouring of community support won his freedom. More recently, Latinx organizer Alejandra Pablos was detained in Arizona. As with Byah, ICE detained these two activists during routine check-ins. Other deported or detained activists include Jean Montrevil in New York; Daniela Vargas, a “Dreamer,” who was picked up moments after speaking about her experience in Jackson, Miss.; and Maru Mora-Villalpando in Seattle.
As the Trump administration continues its vicious attacks on immigrant communities — including terminating temporary protected status for Haitian, Salvadoran, Nicaraguan and Sudanese immigrants and attacking Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — it is no surprise that outspoken community leaders and activists are among its first targets.
ICE’s anti-immigrant campaign is also an assault on the union movement, aimed at decimating the most militant ranks of organized labor. Much union organizing in recent years has been carried out in employment sectors where jobs are held predominantly by immigrant workers. Increasingly, union locals have struggle-oriented immigrant majorities.
It is urgent that all progressive people ally themselves with unions, unorganized TPS workers and activists from immigrant communities who are fighting for permanent status for DACA Dreamers, and all undocumented people targeted by Washington’s inhumane, racist attacks.