If you’ve lived through a winter in Maine, you know that ice is dangerous. It freezes and cracks pipes, causes slips and falls, forms dangerously over water and makes shady spots on the road treacherous. (Although sometimes it fills in potholes, which is nice.) Black ice is the worst, because you can’t always see it on the pavement. By the time you hit it and feel your wheels skid, it’s too late. Hitting the brakes only makes the problem worse.

There’s another kind of ice that’s creeping into our state. That would be Immigration and Customs Enforcement, aka ICE. They have an office with a holding cell in One City Center in Monument Square in Portland. We let that happen. And now they are expanding their presence into Scarborough. ICE is planning to open a home base for local enforcement and removal agents, and a processing center for detainees before they are moved to longer-term detention centers or jails.

The building will also be renting space to the Portland Veterans Center and a marketing firm, which seems like a weird combination, but I’m not a real estate mogul, so what do I know. According to the emails discussing the move, “The space will be low key and not brightly advertised as an ICE location.” This seems like a problem, because as everyone knows, the best way to melt ice is with sustained sunlight.

I’m against ICE. I don’t think it’s an agency that needs to exist. It was created only in 2003, which was not all that long ago, and well within my own memory, in the panicky days after 9/11. Before 2003, our country managed to deport criminals without dedicating an entire expensive agency to terrorizing families. I haven’t forgotten the families ICE has torn apart in Maine when it deported men who had been in the United States for decades. Lexius Saint Martin of Waterville, who was forced to leave behind two small children and has never met his third child. Otto Morales-Caballeros of Naples, who was separated from his wife. There have been others. And there will continue to be others.

I’ve experienced separation from members of my family through death and through military deployment. I imagine that deportation is somewhere between the two, in terms of pain and grief – less permanent than death, but open-ended in a way that deployment is not. I would like to protect children and families from the unnecessary pain of having their loved ones kicked out of the country for paperwork violations.

Maine is blessed with a low crime rate (probably in large part because of our small population). It may not always seem that way, because of the “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality of media – crime and danger make for good content – but we are a very safe place to live. Given the facts of Maine’s demographics – a rapidly aging and dwindling population – we desperately need to make this state more welcoming to immigrants if we are going to have any chance of creating a thriving economy into the future. We already have long winters and summers full of ticks. We don’t need an ICE office scaring off potential residents as well.

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On my mother’s side of the family, the first of my ancestors to set foot on American soil was Archibald MacEacheron, a Scottish immigrant who landed in what would become the United States in 1648. Two hundred and fifty years later, my great-great-grandfather Victor Hugo-Vidal arrived from Spain, by way of the Philippines. He married an American woman and had a son named Victor, who had a son named Victor, who had a son named Ross, who had a daughter named Victoria (that’s me).

My family has been in America for a long, long time, but I have never forgotten that I am a descendant of men who crossed oceans to come here. I consider it a responsibility of mine to make our country welcoming to new immigrants.

When we live in Maine, we agree to let winter be a part of our lives. But ICE doesn’t have to be.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

 


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