Late Monday night, Trump mentioned a plan for “removing” millions of immigrants in a series of tweets aimed at firing up his base before he officially unveiled his 2020 campaign. This is Trump’s third national campaign in four years, and the playbook remains intact. Present chaos, instill fear, promise only you can fix it. Repeat and escalate.
Except this time the immigrant community is ready to fight back.
Even before Trump’s election, Latinos had rediscovered the true heights of their political power thanks to the courageous actions of the young activists behind the movement to keep the Dream Act alive while pushing for common-sense legislation to protect their immigrant families.
But their cause transcends immigrant rights. This new generation of Latinx has taken to the streets, the courts and Congress to defend the principles of freedom and equality that define American democracy.
Criminalizing and dehumanizing immigrants has been a cornerstone of Trumpism from Day One. We heard more of that hateful rhetoric in Orlando on Tuesday. The difference this time is that Trump now has his own record on the issue.
Trump’s immigration legacy is short but unequivocal: failed, cruel and inhumane policies that have aggravated a regional humanitarian crisis, put even more strain on our broken immigration system and deepened the fault lines on an issue where there’s significant consensus.
I believe that the richest, most powerful country in the world should set the standard for compassion in how migrant families are treated, yet we spend too much time and energy fretting about semantics.
The debate about immigrant detention facilities illustrates how our hyper-polarized environment drowns out America’s political center while undermining its moral core.
Candidate Trump promised to go after “bad hombres,” but instead he separated babies from their mothers at the border and made every undocumented immigrant a deportation priority.
Among those affected was Francisco Montufar, an immigrant from Guatemala who had been in the United States since 2004 before Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained him last year as the result of a traffic violation. I visited Francisco’s family at their home in Manassas, where his young U.S. citizen daughters and his wife were struggling to make ends meet without Francisco’s financial and emotional support.
“We came here looking for a dream, for a better future to our family. Now we feel defeated. This is not how I pictured Francisco returning to Guatemala. He was wearing the same broken-down clothes and shoes he uses for work when they took him from us. That’s not what I wanted for my husband,” Clara Giselda Bartolo told me.
The president’s renewed call for massive deportations on Monday would lead to millions of stories such as Francisco’s. It prompted an immediate blowback from those who argue the administration lacks the personnel and resources to implement such a plan. That list includes ICE officials, who seemed to have been caught flat-footed by the president’s tweet.
Activists, on the other hand, have been organizing and resisting in the name of fairness and justice.
“Our communities, whether black or brown, undocumented or U.S. citizens, are under assault,” Cristina Jimenez, the co-founder and executive director of United We Dream, the largest immigrant-led youth network in the country, told me. “That’s why our vision is much more than citizenship and protections. We dream of a country where all of us, regardless of race, gender, religion and background, can participate in our democracy, live freely and thrive. By organizing, breaking down the systems that oppress our communities and mobilizing voters to the polls, we will make our parents’ dreams come true and make this country better for the generations to come.”
For Paola Ramos, a Latinx advocate focusing on LGBTQ issues, Trump’s threats haven’t been able to bury the voices of immigrants.
“The effect has only propelled an even stronger voice of Latinx activists — a more unified one, a more inclusive and resilient one,” she told me. “One that is showing the full depth and strength of the undocumented community — including the black, transgender, indigenous and queer voices that were often missing from the picture. Don’t underestimate that solidarity.”
Raised by immigrant families, with all the triumphs and the challenges that experience entails, Latinx activists have been preparing for this moment their whole lives, even if some didn’t realize it until now.
They are not afraid, they are ready.