A former government employee who quit his job after refusing to hand over information about immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says that those participating in the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border are “on the wrong side of history.”
Jordon Dyrdahl-Roberts, 33, worked for the Montana Department of Labor as a legal secretary until this February, when he was asked to process ICE subpoenas that would give the government agency wage reports for undocumented immigrants.
“I went and talked to my manager and said, ‘I don’t think I can do this,’” he told HuffPost. “They kept trying to offer me an out, but as long as they were going to process the subpoenas, I couldn’t stay. You don’t collaborate with fascists.”
Dyrdahl-Roberts said he was already upset after seeing video footage of Border Patrol agents dumping water left out for migrants at the border. Giving ICE immigrant information pushed him to his limit, he explained.
“I know what they’re going to do with this information ― they’re going to tear families apart, rip up communities, and for no reason,” Dyrdahl-Roberts said. “I think our immigration system has been deeply flawed for a while, but this is a step up in the cruelty because they’re going after everybody, and I just couldn’t play a part.”
Dyrdahl-Roberts had held his government job since 2011. Since quitting, he’s been advocating for immigrant families. He said the Trump administration’s recent policy of physically separating children from their parents at the border is a level of cruelty he was not prepared to face.
“Donald Trump and his administration is filled with white supremacists,” he said. “They don’t care about these kids; it’s a bargaining chip for him to get the wall because he desperately needs some sort of victory going into November elections so he can say ‘Look, we’ve got the wall.’”
Trump reportedly plans to sign an executive order on Wednesday to roll back his administration’s policy of tearing children away from their parents. But thousands of children are still detained, and it’s unclear how they will be reunited with their families. In just one Texas facility, nearly 1,500 children are being kept in cages. At other facilities, journalists and politicians who want to view the conditions inside have been turned away.
People who are following orders to separate and detain children “are on the wrong side of history right now, and their window for redemption is closing,” Dyrdahl-Roberts said. His frustration echoes that of former Border Patrol officer Jenn Budd, who told HuffPost that she felt “ashamed” to have worked for Customs and Border Protection after she heard audio published by ProPublica of children crying and begging for their parents.
Dyrdahl-Roberts said he could only listen to short clips of the seven-minute audio.
“It’s a lot,” he said of the audio. “For a while in my childhood, I was a ward of the state of Florida, with people who seemed to genuinely care about children, and it was still pretty traumatic. And these kids are getting placed in facilities where people are told not to hug them. This is child abuse executed by the U.S. government.”
He didn’t mince words about what federal authorities should do when they’re in a position to separate or detain children.
“Either you refuse the order, and if they say that you have to do it or you’re fired, you quit,” he said. “Optimally, what happens after this is not only the abolition of ICE, but we start prosecutions.”