Short Version: Pogrom

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The raids are scheduled for Sunday. What more can you say beyond that? ICE, an agency whose aptronym says more than its full bureaucratic name, is scheduled to sweep through the country, collecting “thousands of members of undocumented families.”

The terror was supposed to come last month, but it got delayed amid pushback from some officials. Apparently they’ve given up or been overruled. “There's nothing to be secret about,” Trump told reporters at the White House today. “It starts on Sunday and they’re going to take people out.”

There’s no good reason to do this. The families who are going to get broken up aren’t any better or worse than those who will watch this happen, or the millions of others who will look away. The people who are going to get rounded up and thrown into concentration camps won’t be collected because they’ve hurt anyone else. And even if some truly bad apples get caught up in the dragnet, it isn’t as if justice will be served: Mass expulsion is widely considered a crime against international law itself.

I was hesitant to do this as a full edition of The Long Version because—who knows! Maybe it’ll all get pushed back again. Trump, like many fascists, is capricious and disorganized. Maybe something shiny will come along to distract him. (There is a potent admixture of global-warming-fueled catastrophes headed for the Gulf Coast as we speak.) If that happens, and I’ve hit the alarm button now, we’ll have just wasted more time, and further diffused attention for whenever the crackdown comes.

It might be giving Trump and his henchmen too much credit to call that a “strategy,” but it works.

In the meantime, a couple thoughts:

1) Don’t buy into the myth that ICE is an agency just looking to uphold the rule of law. It’s a relatively new organization with a bad track record. Here’s a thread with more:

2) I’ve seen thrown-together mass expulsions first-hand. I’ve learned that they almost never go as planned. But even if thanks to pressure, disorganization, or luck the most draconian image of a jackboot raid doesn’t come to pass immediately, the long-term consequences can still be dire.

This won’t all have begun on Sunday. It won’t end Sunday either.

3) There are things those targeted by the raids can do. Every single person on American soil has rights. Here’s a helpful video from the ACLU:

Ese video está disponible en Español con este enlace aquí; y una versión que trata de lo que uno puede hacer si ICE se acerca por la calle se encuentra aquí.

4) Don’t assume that you won’t get caught up in this, even if you’re a U.S. citizen, as a harrowing New York Times Op-ed today made clear:

ICE makes mistakes. American citizens can get caught in its maw — even white Americans. According to the Cato Institute, from 2006 to 2017 ICE wrongfully detained more than 3,500 U.S. citizens in Texas alone. Even in Rhode Island, ICE issued 462 detainers for people listed as U.S. citizens over a 10-year period, according to the A.C.L.U. From 2017 to 2019, A.C.L.U. data showed that law enforcement detained 420 citizens in Ms. Nuetzi’s state of Florida, at ICE’s request. Eighty-three of those requests have been canceled, and the people released. The rest remain in detention, waiting for ICE, according to the A.C.L.U. report. Even though ICE detainers should lapse after 48 hours, local law enforcement often continues to hold people until the agency gets around to checking them.

5) Sort of a side note. It just so happens that, this week, my family made a fascinating discovery: The graves of our ancestors in the Katz ancestral hometown, in what is now western Ukraine, survive. There are even photos online.

This was a shock to me. After waves of pogroms — lynchings, mass expulsions — at the hands of the Russians, Ukrainian neighbors, and ultimately the Germans during World War II, I’d assumed nothing was left. The city’s current Wikipedia page barely even mention that Jews ever lived there. (It was once one of the most important Jewish centers of Eastern Europe.)

Yet, there they were. I spent hours combing the pages. For the first time, I learned the name of my great-great-great-grandfather. (Ze’ev! It means “wolf.” His son, my great-great-grandfather, is pictured above.) I even found the headstones of Katz relatives who’d survived to ripe old ages in the old country. One was buried in our ancestral town as recently as 1980. That’s the year I was born.

I suspect that the reason some of our family persevered, along with their cemetery, was thanks to the bravery of one man: the mayor in the 1940s, Traian Popovici. Though he was a Christian and a Romanian nationalist, Popovici stood up to Romanian authorities working with the Germans. He could not prevent the construction of a squalid ghetto or many deportations to the death camps, but through his concerted action and negotiating skills he managed to save about 15,000 Jews—before being deported himself. He lived, but died soon after the war.

By the time Popovici intervened, it was in many ways too late. Action should have been taken years—decades—before.

But his example still stands. Whatever comes this weekend, or in the weeks and months to follow, don’t be like the forgotten cowards who went along with the crimes against humanity. Be like Popovici. Someone in the future will thank you for it.

Thanks as always for reading. I’m going to straight rip off the appeal from Amee Vanderpool’s excellent newsletter, Shero: If you liked this piece and you want to help support independent journalism, please support my work by clicking the button below to sign up for a free subscription.

Hasta la próxima. Zay gesunt.

Jonathan M. Katz is a freelance journalist and author. You can follow him on Twitter at @KatzOnEarth.