Ralph Isenberg is a successful property manager in Dallas, but he is also a warrior for the rights of immigrants that have fallen victim to our present immigration system. Isenberg, who has no special training in field of immigration, founded the Isenberg Center for Immigration Empowerment (ICIE) after he learned first-hand of the destructive nature of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) tactics and their total disregard for civil and human rights. “This agency, for the most part, is made up of FBI want-to-be types that are rejects because they act like thugs and bullies.” Isenberg said. “ICE agents that want to do well are clearly in the minority.” Isenberg points to the fact that ICE has more government watchdog agencies keeping an eye on ICE than any other law enforcement agency in the United States Government.
Isenberg is a first-generation American whose family came to the United States from Nazi Germany. The war in Europe resulted in the Isenbergs losing two-thirds of their family at the hands of Hitler. Isenberg’s parents made certain he was raised with a deep appreciation for the opportunities the United States gave new immigrants. His father earned a PHD and was a full professor teaching Organic Chemistry while his mother, an RN, headed a student health care program at university of over 20,000 students.
Isenberg took a keen interest in politics at a very young age after meeting Senator John F. Kennedy when he was running for president. During this time he also met several other well-known political types and civil rights leaders.
It was only natural that Isenberg would want to get involved in helping those with immigration problems, after his own family ran into what he describes as the “wrath of ICE.” Isenberg says, “There is no way I will ever forgive the United States for what they did to my family and the only fitting punishment is that I spend the rest of my life on the attack saving others.”
ICIE was founded to help Isenberg implement the principle that action, not inaction, will always be taken when ICIE finds a matter in which Constitutional law or “extreme family separation” is an issue to a foreign national. The organization does not charge a person it helps, no matter how much work is required. “We are a ‘resort of last hope,” Isenberg says. “ICIE is anything but conventional. We will do whatever we must to keep a family together. That is proven by the fact that ICIE has only had two setbacks in several hundred matters, involving thousands of foreign nationals and nationals. Losing a matter is not an option when you are dealing with a human life,” Isenberg points out.
The stated mission of ICIE is “to challenge our society to be more accepting of foreign nationals that have settled in the United States, whose presence has made them contributing members of our society and deserving of being Americans. When harm comes to these deserving foreign nationals, ICIE will engage those persons, whether it involves private or government concerns. The major tools used by ICIE to defend foreign nationals are the Constitution of the United States, the doctrine of extreme family separation and humanitarian concerns. ICIE will never permit simple prejudice to be a framework for resolution.”
Over the years, Isenberg and the staff at ICIE take on matters that most legal types run from. It is a daunting task, and Isenberg often finds his efforts thwarted by ICE agents who violate the civil rights of the foreign nationals he is trying to help. Through all the victories and struggles, Isenberg points out that it is always about helping one life, and one family, at a time. “I always tell folks about the story of the starfish,” he said. “A father and his child were walking along the beach and came across hundreds of starfish that had washed ashore. The child began picking up the starfish one at a time and putting them back in the ocean. That father told the child; there’s no point in doing this. There are too many starfish to throw back in the ocean. You can’t help them. It won’t make a difference. The child looked up at the father, holding up a starfish, and said, “it will make a difference for this one.” That describes ICIE perfectly.
“We at ICIE can’t help everyone; but to the person or family we do get to save, it makes a world of difference. We get to save one starfish at a time,” he said.