Tufts 'art project' aims to help illegals evade law enforcement

Tufts University will be displaying a year-long art exhibit called “ICE Escape Signs.”

The placards resembling fire escape signs will be designed to represent specific buildings on campus and sited as if they were standard signs.

Signs detailing escape routes in the event of an ICE raid will be posted around Tufts University as part of a year-long “art project.”

The signs are modeled after the specific layouts of the buildings in which they are posted. Much like fire escape signs, they depict exit routes most effective for evading ICE officers, who are represented on the signs as stick figures with hats and guns. 

The placards are part of a project by artist Jenny Polak titled “ICE Escape Signs,” that she describes as “an ongoing series based on fire-escape signs, and sited like the real signs, using site-specific floor-plans of buildings.”

Polak sends the signs to “any venues that ask to participate,” and encourages visitors to her website to “order yours today.” They have so far been featured at several locations, including the New Jersey Institute of Technology School of Architecture, and two New York public libraries.

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Tufts will be working with Polak to “create a series of site-respondent signs” specific to the Tufts community in order to “draw attention to the fact that people are living in daily fear of being caught in a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Director of Tufts University Art Galleries Dina Deitsch said that the series “talks about immigration politics and policies” through art, but the pieces are presented as standard signage, without any indication that they are meant to be artwork, according to The Tufts Daily.

Deitsch said she chose to feature the signs in order to call attention to the challenges faced by illegal immigrants.

“What would that day-to-day reality feel like? … When you are in a building, you might really be conscious of exit signs,” she said, adding that she thinks the signs will also benefit “populations that are not at risk” by helping to create an “empathetic or sympathetic, forward-thinking space.”

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Federation for American Immigration Reform Media Director Ira Mehlman told Campus Reform that the signs are simply “another example of campus virtue signaling.”

”The number of illegal aliens who can afford the $57,324 a year tuition (that figure jumps to $76,200 when dorms, books, and other fees are included) is probably minimal, although there are probably a few who are attending on generous scholarships,” Mehlman said. 

“Moreover, ICE actions tend to target people who have deportation orders pending against them (usually because they have been convicted of other offenses). Thus, the chances of an ICE raid on the Tufts campus is virtually nil. But, posting these signs makes the virtue signalers feel virtuous, and also allows them to whip up hysteria and contrived moral outrage.”

“This is really a matter for the university administration to address. Given the current propensity of university administrators to yield to the demands of its most radical student groups, it is highly doubtful that the administration will do anything,” Mehlman concluded. 

Tufts University spokesman Patrick Collins told Campus Reform that “exhibits that are highlighted by Tufts University Art Galleries are meant to provoke and encourage thoughtful, constructive dialogue, an important aspect of Tufts’ commitment to promoting civic engagement in the lives of its students and community members. As a university, we recognize the power of art to stimulate conversation about difficult issues of the day. Inclusion of artwork for exhibition does not indicate university support for the views expressed.”

Collins added that “the signs will be placed at a distance from actual emergency signage to prevent any possible confusion” and will “have the galleries’ logo and website on them, so they will be distinguishable.”

ICE spokeswoman Rachael Yong Yow suggested to Campus Reform that a raid at Tufts would be unlikely.

”I realize that this is artwork simply posted on campus, but I would also like to be clear that ICE’s sensitive locations policy provides that enforcement actions at sensitive locations, including schools and places of worship, should generally be avoided, and require either prior approval from an appropriate supervisory official or exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action,” she said, linking to a relevant list of FAQs.

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