Jewish Activists in Texas Are Waging War on America’s Immigration Policies

HOUSTON — Sitting at a round table outside a cafe in the Hyde Park neighborhood, 37-year-old Frances Fisher cannot contain her tears. The subject at hand is too painful and personal for her to discuss without emotion. 

Fisher and the four colleagues sitting beside her are members of the Houston chapter of Never Again Action, a nationwide Jewish effort to protest the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers and shut down Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities.  

The organization was founded in June by a small group of Jewish activists who were angered by pictures that emerged in the media of cramped facilities where immigrants slept on concrete floors, covered with aluminum emergency blankets. It has since grown into a nationwide movement. Over the past summer, thousands took to the streets in dozens of cities across the United States, blocking entrances to ICE facilities and engaging in civil disobedience under the banner “Never Again Is Now” – and often getting arrested in the process.

“I feel like it’s my job almost to keep reminding people this exists, you can’t just close the door,” says Fisher, attempting to wipe away her tears under her glasses. “It’s appalling to me.”

The ‘right thing to do’

About a hundred people had taken part in each of the two Houston-based actions over the summer. They gathered on Emancipation Ave., outside a detention center housing unaccompanied migrant children operated by the organization Southwest Key, in contract with the federal government. 

David Smith, a 64-year-old political scientist who has been involved in political organizing for years, was one of the organizers of the protests. “I’m not Jewish but my wife Rona is. Her ancestors are from Poland, they were driven out by the pogroms,” he tells Haaretz at the coffee shop. “When we heard about Never Again getting organized nationally, we thought this is a really important development because certainly Jewish people have a unique and distinctive take on what camps mean and what they can lead to.”