HOUSTON: ICE Detains Activist Who Invited Them to Town Hall

Photo: Press conference after activist Ronald Gramajo’s detention by ICE.

By Jennifer Kelly

On September 5, Guatemalan immigrant and activist Ronald Gramajo was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on his way to work, three weeks after he had invited ICE agents to a town hall organized by city council candidate Nelvin Adriatico. The meeting was intended to assuage the fears of the immigrant community about the Trump administration’s promised ICE raids this summer, but the outcome has only confirmed the fascist nature of the agency.

Adriatico, a real estate broker, had given Gramajo a contact at ICE to reach out to before the meeting, and Gramajo made the invitation despite his family’s protests. ICE officially declined, but numerous attendees at the town hall reported seeing suspicious white men taking video and photographs of the crowd. ICE claims Gramajo’s detention weeks later was prompted by an anonymous tip.

As head of the Guatemalan Organizational Center, Gramajo helped to organize the Fiestas Patrias Parade downtown, gathered bikes and toys to donate to children, organized mental health outreach, and used his business to help immigrants who couldn’t speak English, aiding them in translating documents and securing loans.

Gramajo even received commendation from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as an “extremely positive role model” and “a true leader with an exceptional drive to improve the quality of life in Houston.”

gramajo and mayor
Picture of Gramajo (holding award) with Mayor Turner (to Gramajo’s left)

US House Representative Sylvia Garcia as well as representatives of local nonprofit For Families and Their Education (FIEL) also attended the town hall. While these government and nonprofit officials are now protesting Gramajo’s impending deportation, none raised concerns when the idea of inviting ICE agents was originally proposed.

Gramajo’s good will for his community was exploited by government officials and nonprofit activists eager to use his grassroots organizing to legitimize themselves and the authority of ICE. These sellouts complain about the excesses of ICE even as they treat them like friends, inviting them to a panel discussion. By working with these types, Gramajo not only compromised his own safety but exposed his entire community to an even higher level of surveillance than they already face.

By all accounts Gramajo was an honest man who worked hard to do what he felt was right to serve his community, but he was misguided by his faith in the bourgeois class. Even if ICE had sent agents to the town hall, it would only have served to legitimize their fascist campaign against the people. Ultimately, no nonprofit, well-meaning businessman, or bourgeois representative can protect or liberate the nationally oppressed, including immigrants. Only proletarian leadership can meaningfully oppose this threat.