Donald Trump is making good on his terrifying campaign promises to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and to round up and deport undocumented immigrants. Within his first two months in office, he has attempted to enact two Muslim bans targeting several Muslim majority nations, he has called for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and he has encouraged Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) to rapidly increase detentions and deportations of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Just a few days after his inauguration, Trump declared war on the Muslim community by issuing his first Muslim Ban, causing chaos in many of our nation’s airports. Within hours, refugees and legal residents from several Muslim majority nations were blocked from entering the U.S. and some were detained. We know that many Muslims coming here are fleeing life-threatening situations including war and famine. The rest seek a better life for themselves and their families. They are people like MIT student Niki Rahmati, who was not allowed to re-enter the U.S. after visiting her family in Iran, simply because of her faith and country of origin. In fact, reports show that no one from the seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen) listed in Trump’s Muslim bans has committed terrorists acts on U.S. soil.
In cities across the country, we have seen aggressive operations by ICE targeting people at their homes, schools, and workplaces. During these operations in Los Angeles, ICE agents have identified themselves as police officers, donning tactical clothing with police labels as they work without assistance from our local police. They have sought to immediately deport people rather than giving them their day in court. This creates a pervasive climate of fear and deep distress in our communities where residents become less likely to report real crimes with local law enforcement.
As an immigrant myself, I am committed to stand in solidarity with those communities being targeted. As a white European, I also know how racially biased the immigration system is. Anyone caught up in it can feel empathy for how scary it is to, at best, have your life turned upside down, and at worst confront being separated from your family, or being sent back to a dangerous place.
Trump and his advisors attempt to justify their attacks by portraying the people they target as dangerous threats to our national security. The truth is that they are driven by a racist ideology that is antithetical to the values held by most Americans. We must unequivocally reject racism and act in resistance to defend those who are being attacked. Immigrants and refugees are members of our communities — they are our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends, and our family.
A diverse coalition of people from faith and civil rights organizations has responded swiftly to these attacks. Thanks to the hard work of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), both of Trump’s Muslim bans have been stopped in court. Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA) has done tremendous work providing legal trainings and services for detained undocumented immigrants, as well as preparing Los Angeles communities who may be subject to immigration checkpoints and raids.
The rest of us must not sit on the sidelines cheering them on. Legislation like Senate Bill 54, establishing sanctuary standards for the State of California, is the kind of effort we should all support. Employers also have a responsibility to protect hardworking employees from arbitrary detainment and detention in their workplaces. We need to follow the example set by unions like UNITE HERE and work to establish sanctuary workplaces in every city.
As part of the Partnership for Working Families (PWF), my organization, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), is working with other organizations across the country who are fighting back against Trump’s racist attacks. OCCORD recently formed a Muslim-Latino alliance in Orange County, CA. Our sister organization in New York City, ALIGN, has organized demonstrations against each of Trump’s corporate cabinet appointees. Our PWF partners in seven states and several cities are moving to ban companies that build the border wall from winning local contracts and profiting off our tax dollars.
Although what we have seen so far has been terrifying, we must not lose hope. The resistance is working. Earlier this month, Dany Vargas, a young undocumented woman who was detained in Mississippi after speaking out against deportation, was released from detention due to immense public pressure on ICE and local officials. By coming together in greater numbers, we are widening the safety net for people who are scared and whose lives are being torn apart. We are effectively resisting the Trump agenda, and as our resistance continues, we will retake our democracy and ensure that we have a country and economy that works for all people.