Immigration

On May Day, Immigrants Are Standing Up To Trump

Juliana Britto Schwartz
May 1, 2017

Today on International Worker’s Day, immigrants, workers and allies across the country are hitting the streets to fight back against President Trump’s immigration agenda. From New York to California, today’s actions come after months of organizing against what activists are calling “Trump’s deportation machine.”

Closing out his first 100 days in office, the president has already begun to barrel ahead on his campaign promises to ramp up deportation and immigration enforcement. In March, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly announced that DHS would be arresting undocumented people guilty of any criminal offense (including illegal entry), that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be adding 10,000 new agents, and that eligibility for expedited deportation would be significantly expanded.

Immigrant communities immediately began to feel the painful impacts of these policy changes, as parents with no criminal record were apprehended in front of their children, and victims of domestic abuse were stopped by ICE when going to report their abusers. Last month, DHS deported its first DREAMer after stating that people protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would not be targeted. Immigrant rights activists feel that this is the latest line crossed in a series of actions taken by the administration to target immigrant communities, separating families and unnecessarily punishing people who contribute to the economy. In response, people across the country looked for digital organizing tools to demand justice – and many turned to Change.org.

High school students Jassary and Chris also turned to online petitions when they felt that their families’ were being threatened. Their state of Texas had just proposed a law that would punish cities which chose to provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants by reducing communication between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Both Jassary and Chris have loved ones who are undocumented, and worried that they could be deported under the proposed bill. Their petition quickly grew to over 33,000 people but not before both the House and Senate passed a version of the law. Texas SB 4 is now awaiting Governor Abbott’s signature as activists do everything they can to convince him not to pass it into law.

Over in California, Oswaldo Martinez sent to immigrant detention after an interaction with law enforcement like those described under Texas SB 4, leaving his 10-year-old daughter to support his wife as she battled with health problems. Oswaldo wanted to do everything that he could to get back to his family and avoid deportation, so he enlisted the help of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), who started a Change.org petition asking for his release. In April he was granted a bond hearing, a heartening step in a potentially long process towards being reunited with his family.

Angelo Cabrera is also intimately familiar with the pain many immigrants feel when separated from the country which has become their home. After living in New York for 24 years, he traveled back to Mexico to re-apply for legal status, but his application was denied. “I remember I was seated with my parents in Mexico and when I told them the news, we all started to cry,” he said in an interview. Angelo started a petition and two years later, with the help of his supporters and family, he was granted the visa waiver he needed to return to the United States.

He has been back for a year now, working with the immigrant community in New York. He says that people are scared now that Trump has come into office and many children are afraid that their parents could be apprehended by immigration agents while they are away at school. “I remember a 10th grade student telling me that one day she arrived home and her mother was not there. She called her cell phone and wasn’t able to reach her, so she panicked until she found her mother at the supermarket.” That day she asked her mother to always pick up her phone.

Angelo knows that if he were applying for his visa under this administration, his chances of ever getting back to the United States would be very slim, so he’s channeling all his energy into supporting immigrants like himself. “This government does not value the humanity and kindness of our immigrant community,” he says. But luckily, there are thousands of people across the country who are using digital tools to demonstrate that they do.