Immigrants in the U.S. are currently facing a challenging environment, as Trump has continued to espouse anti-immigrant sentiments and implement restrictive policies at an unrelenting pace. These policy efforts include the lowest ceiling for refugee admits in U.S. history, expanded deportation of undocumented immigrants in the interior and along the border, the separation of families at the U.S.-Mexico border, attempts to dismantle DACA and eliminate Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, and most recently, the deportations of Cambodian and Vietnamese Americans who legally arrived in the U.S. as refugee children.
Category Archives: Immigrants Rights Activism
By Joanna Perez
Although most undocumented immigrants do not have access to a pathway to citizenship, access to education has been granted to eligible undocumented students (undocustudents). In 1982, the Plyer v Doe Supreme Court case ruling prevented the K-12 public education system from denying any student access from enrolling in school, regardless of their immigration status (Olivas, 2012). As such, undocustudents who partake in the K-12 public education system are able to gain a sense of belonging and are momentarily shielded from the daily consequences of an ascribed “illegal” identity (Gonzales, 2016). Yet, upon graduating from high school and transitioning to adulthood, undocustudents begin to experience various forms of exclusion (Abrego, 2006).
On May 17, 2010, four undocumented students and one ally walked into the Arizona office of Senator John McCain demanding that he co-sponsor the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have provided a pathway to citizenship for eligible undocumented youth. Wearing graduation caps and gowns and with a crowd of supporters gathered outside, these activists staged a sit-in (Galindo 2012). Three of the four undocumented activists were arrested marking the first act of civil disobedience in the undocumented youth movement. This protest followed the first Coming out of the Shadows event held in Chicago, Illinois in March, 2010 and preceded DREAM Act Summer, a period of intense mobilization to pass the DREAM Act. During the summer of 2010, undocumented activists held hunger strikes, staged sit-ins in Washington D.C., shutdown intersections in major cities, and held rallies where undocumented youth came out of the shadows as “Undocumented and Unafraid.”
Immigration law enforcement is the purview of the federal government. Thus, even though some states would like to welcome more immigrants and others would like to close their state borders, states do not have the authority to control the entry of foreigners into this country.
Nevertheless, states, counties, and cities do play a significant role in deportations because the vast majority of people deported from the United States are first arrested by a police officer and then handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
“God helped us to arrive here safely” said the exhausted Honduran mother of two in the refugee camp, El Barretal, on the outskirts of Tijuana. Many of the families who travelled with the recent Caravans identify as Christians. Yet, a recent survey showed that 57% of white evangelicals perceive immigrants as a threat to American society. Through the lens of scripture, these Central American Christians and U.S. Christians are members of the same Body of Christ – a Body that apparently has an auto-immune disease. Is that necessarily true? What is the actual and potential contribution of the Church to the struggle for immigrant justice and immigration reform?
The place of immigrants in the U.S. has always been fraught, with immigrants simultaneously serving as inspiring affirmations of the American dream and as scapegoats for an endless list of social ills. But since Trump’s election in 2016, hostility toward immigrants has reached a level unseen in recent years. From families being separated at the border to the “Muslim ban” to proposals to eliminate the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship, immigrants are facing increased hostility in their everyday interactions and heightened threats due to anti-immigrant government policies. Along with these developments, immigrants and their allies are mobilizing and responding to threats in innovative ways. This dialogue brings together scholars and activists to ask what immigrant rights activism looks like in this moment, how it is changing, and what it can teach us about activism in times of increasing threats.
This month, we have a great assortment of essays. Thanks to our wonderful group of contributors on this topic:
- Cecilia Menjívar, UCLA, (essay)
- Matthew Ward, University of Southern Mississippi, (essay)
- Chris Zepeda-Millán, UCLA, (essay)
Editors in Chief,
Grace Yukich, David Ortiz, Rory McVeigh, Guillermo Trejo
News media up to the midterm elections were saturated with images of Central American immigrants traveling north in “caravans,” with images of an impending “invasion” of criminals or terrorists who would threaten the safety and security of most Americans. In the midst of the panic, the Department of Homeland Security even issued a fact sheet about the caravan that listed concerns about criminals traveling north, asserting that there were 270 individuals with criminal histories along the caravan route. The U.S. President would regularly announce to a public already primed to fear crime and criminals filtering through the southern border that the invaders needed to be contained. The administration’s response was Operation Faithful Patriot, comprised of the deployment of up to 15,000 active-duty military troops to Texas, Arizona, and California. And even though the broadcasting of such alarmist declarations decreased dramatically immediately after the midterms, the Commander in Chief did order 5,600 American troops to be deployed to the border, where they will remain waiting for the “caravan” to arrive. Authorities have used tear gas on the migrants who have tried to set foot on U.S. soil to seek asylum.