ICE, To Kill a Mockingbird, Nathan Phillips

January 23, 2019

Joining over 250 cases of wrongful detainment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over the past six years, a recent case involving a U.S. citizen of Latinx ethnicity brings the underlying currents of racism in immigration enforcement to a head. Jilmar Ramos-Gomez was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, served in the Marines, and saw combat in Afghanistan. He has been suffering from PTSD ever since returning from Afghanistan. In November, he was arrested “for trespassing onto the helipad area on the roof of a local hospital” and he pleaded guilty to the charge. Instead of following the local judge’s order to release Ramos-Gomez, the Kent County jail in Grand Rapids fulfilled a request from ICE that he be turned in to their custody. ICE claimed Ramos-Gomez was in the country illegally. Soon afterwards, his mother, Maria Gomez-Velasquez, hired an attorney who informed ICE that they had detained a U.S. citizen. It took two days for Ramos-Gomez to be released. So far, it’s still unclear why ICE called for him to be held for deportation. His mother shares that the incident has “shaken her faith in law enforcement.”

ICE Tried To Deport This U.S. Citizen And Marine Veteran, by Dustin Dwyer for NPR


Andrew Simmons, a high school English teacher, argues that the common reading of To Kill a Mockingbird—that Atticus Finch is a hero, plain and simple—is not only oversimplified, it also reveals a lot about our country’s relationship to our past. He points out that Finch is a privileged member of society who blindly defends the law, and “stands against hate, but not, specifically, white people’s hatred of black people.” Simmons argues that reading Finch as a “civil rights crusader” is “lazy analysis” and that he reads Finch as “a naive man of fundamental decency but narrow vision.” He thinks this more critical reading transforms the book from being quaint to tragic—the tragedy being our country’s inability to confront its legacy of racism. Rather than write the book off, Simmons asks his students to dig deeper. He thinks students can learn from Finch’s weakness even more than his wisdom, and asks his students to think about what it means that we as a country continue to chronically simplify this text. In short, Simmons writes, “A book exemplifying our ailments may be a better starting point than one that claims to have transcended them.”

What to Do After Decades of Teaching ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Wrong?, by Andrew Simmons for The Millions

Last week, activists Hunter and Autumn Hooligan were eager to join the first Indigenous Peoples’ March and represent the women in their Mvskoke family who have been affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other issues that disproportionately affect indigenous women. They were greeted warmly and affectionately by a circle of drummers, singers, and other demonstrators. Not too long after that, though, the demonstrators had a confrontation with a group of teenage boys wearing “MAGA” (“Make America Great Again”) apparel. The boys honed in on the leader of the circle dance, a tall man named Nathan Phillips. They began mocking Phillips’ music, physically intimidating the demonstrators, and chanting phrases like, “Build the wall!” and “Gone in 2020!” In response, Phillips stood his ground and “played his drum with confidence and courage, and sang a sacred prayer for peace.” Videos of the incident have since gone viral, not only calling to mind the centuries of violence against indigenous people in the United States, but their abiding resilience. Hunter Hooligan calls Phillips’ response a “testament to the bravery, dignity, grace, strength, passion, and power of indigenous people,” and reminds us that the way to move forward is through “education for and by each other, education by experience, education by example.”

Staring Down the Smug Face of American Violence, by Hunter Hooligan for The Cut