A Message to Trump: We’re Not Going Back in the Shadows

Undocumented immigrants are ready to mobilize and resist.

Prerna Lal

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, raises a fist in defiance outside Trump Tower in Manhattan on November 9.

Millions of immigrants in the United States woke up to a new political reality November 9: We will soon have the most rabidly anti-immigrant president in living memory. Even at the Undocumented Student Program at the University of California, Berkeley, where we have built a strong and resilient community, immigrant youth and parents walked into my office full of grief and fear.

We must continue to be bold and uncompromising in our vision of justice.

President-elect Trump has promised to undo the reforms we fought so hard to win. His plan for his first 100 days in office, laid out in October, includes revoking legal protections given to young immigrants through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, building a wall at the Mexican border, blocking funding for sanctuary cities, deporting people with criminal convictions and making it harder to legally immigrate to the United States.

Thanks to the expansion of immigration enforcement under both Presidents Bush and Obama, the Trump administration will already have the data it needs to launch new attacks on immigrants. Trump has appointed such hardliners to his transition team as Kris Kobach, the architect of the anti-Muslim registration system initiated temporarily in as part of the War on Terror.

But immigrants have already shown we can mobilize and resist under grave political circumstances. When Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R – Wis.) introduced legislation in 2005 that would have turned undocumented immigrants into felons, millions of demonstrators took to the streets in dozens of cities. The bill was defeated. Even as Obama deported more than 2 million undocumented people, many of them mothers and fathers, immigrants came out as undocumented and unafraid,” occupying streets, political offices and lawns outside the White House and Congress.

Many organizers have long known that, regardless of who is in office, we will need to resist local and national immigration enforcement against all marginalized communities. Under Obama, young immigrant organizers had to fight our liberal friends to win temporary relief from deportations. A Clinton presidency would have likely brought more of the same.

The end of a seemingly endless election should bring some relief. Time spent campaigning for one politician over another, while knowing that deportations would continue under a Democratic regime, took energy away from collective grassroots action. The threat looming before us is now crystal clear. Trump’s victory has galvanized liberals, who cannot look away from the very real violence his supporters are already unleashing against immigrants and people of color.

We need to shift away from purely electoral politics to mobilize and protect our communities — and engage all people who are left behind by the political establishment.

We can’t just fight federal anti-immigrant policies for the next four years, either. We need to put forward pro-immigrant measures through local and state legislation, as well as continue to organize for education, single-payer healthcare, a social safety net and better environmental policies. As Trump launches an onslaught against our sanctuary cities, we need to push to end cooperation between local police and immigration enforcement. As Trump revokes legal protections for young immigrants, we need to ensure our K-12 and higher education institutions continue to be safe spaces for our students. We need to take to the streets with young people proclaiming they won’t go back into the shadows while pursuing creative litigation strategies for more permanent relief for immigrants. With lawyers, advocates and community members, we need to resist all deportations with every tool in our arsenal.

We need to think nationally and engage locally. Most of all, we must continue to be bold and uncompromising in our vision of justice. And we need to continue to take our cues from those directly impacted and follow their lead.

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Prerna Lal is a staff attorney and clinical supervisor at the East Bay Community Law Center. They currently serve as the attorney for the UC Berkeley Undocumented Student Program.
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