Archived: Fake ICE Posters Used in D.C. to Intimidate Immigrants

Phony posters made to look like a message from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were found hanging around Washington, D.C., on Thursday, prompting city officials to reaffirm D.C.’s status as a welcoming place for immigrants.

The posters are labeled, “Sanctuary City Public Notice.” “Sanctuary city” is not an official legal term but is a general term used to describe places as being safe places for immigrants.

The signs cite Federal Law 1907, Title 8, U.S.C. 1324(a), which outlines consequences for transporting, harboring or aiding/abetting undocumented immigrants. They quote parts of the policy, telling residents that violating the law can result in five or 10 years in prison.

The flyers call on residents to report undocumented immigrants to ICE. It provides a phone number people can call to report anyone they suspect of being undocumented.

“If you see something, say something,” the flyers say.

The signs not only seem intended to invoke fear in immigrant residents of D.C. but also in citizens who do not make it a point to report immigrants.

“Clearly the flyer is meant to scare and divide our residents,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said. In a series of tweets, she also encouraged residents to “Tear it down!” and confirmed that the signs are in fact phony.

Notably, the flyers raise several suspicions. For one, they include two phone numbers. One is an ICE phone number, but the other is a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) phone number. Both agencies are under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but they are separate entities.

The flyer also contains the motto, “If you see something, say something.” This slogan is related to a DHS campaign that, according to DHS’s website, “raises public awareness of the indicators of terrorism and terrorism-related crime.” ICE’s real motto is, “Protecting National Security and Upholding Public Safety.”

Additionally, “sanctuary city” is not a legal term and carries varying meanings city by city. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions just in May released a memo with the administration’s first attempt at a definition of “sanctuary cities,” which he and the administration are attempting to take federal funding from.

The designation “refer[s] only to jurisdictions that ‘willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373,'” according to the memo.

Section 1373 states that government and other entities may not “prohibit” or “restrict” Immigration and Naturalization Service information. But it does not and, constitutionally, cannot force city police departments to act as immigration agents.

The hoax also drew responses from (the real) ICE on Twitter, as well as the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD):

MPD included a poster in its tweet stating that MPD will “protect all of its residents and visitors with the highest regard for the sanctity of human life.”

“Our immigrant community is a vital part of the fabric of our city,” the poster reads.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 14 percent of D.C.’s population is foreign-born. This is slightly above the national average, as an estimated 13 percent of the total population is foreign-born. Nearly three-quarters of D.C.’s foreign-born residents 16 and over are in the labor force greater than D.C.’s resident population overall, of which 69 percent is in the labor force.

Immigrants made their presence known in D.C. on “Day Without Immigrants” in February, at which time people all across the country stayed home from work and school, closed businesses and refused to spend money. While entire cities did not shut down and business operations did not halt completely, business owners and patrons alike could see a significant difference.

BLT Prime, a restaurant in the Trump International D.C. Hotel, ran on a limited menu,CNN reported, and its sister restaurant, located near the White House, was closed entirely.

“Immigrants are the backbone of this country and the heart and soul of the service industry,” said Matt Carr, owner of D.C.-based Little Red Fox restaurant. “Without them, our small businesses would crumble. They are also part of our family here at Little Red Fox, and I, too, am worried about their future under this administration.”

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