President Donald Trump and his band of xenophobic supporters have rained terror and chaos in the lives of hard-working immigrants and their families over the past 18 months. Whether they are naturalized U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents or undocumented immigrants, the Trump administration has lived up to (if not surpassed) the anti-immigrant horrors it pitched to Republican voters during the 2016 presidential election.
This election year, however, things are poised to be different ― and I am not just talking about the expected “blue wave” that many are so desperately working toward. Many people who didn’t before understand just how badly our nation’s immigration system is broken are coming to terms with the reality that deportation and family separation don’t just affect individual immigrants ― they affect entire communities.
This is why voting and becoming active in civic matters have become crucial tools in combating the many heads of Trump’s deportation force.
At the local level, voters are increasingly understanding that mayors and city commissioners wield their own type of power and influence. In 2017, we witnessed Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez cave to a hollow threat from Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions over federal funding to cities that provided any assistance to undocumented immigrants. Compare that to the recent actions of Keisha Lance Bottoms, the current mayor of Atlanta, who signed an executive order prohibiting Atlanta’s jails from accepting any more detainees from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
These examples illustrate the difference between a proactive and progressive mayor who understands immigration issues and one who is more than willing to bow to Trump.
If Democrats sit out this election, Donald Trump’s agenda and handpicked candidates will continue their crusade of terror against immigrants, minorities and people of color.
The stakes are even higher for Dreamers and immigrants when you zoom out and look at state elections. Right now, Republicans in Florida and Texas (to mention just a couple of states) are looking for ways to repeal laws that grant Dreamers the ability to afford in-state tuition at state colleges and universities, putting the futures of thousands of undocumented students in jeopardy. Things look even grimmer in ruby red Kansas, where Kris Kobach, an elite racist and anti-immigrant hawk, has a shot at becoming the state’s next governor (and would no doubt transform it into a testing ground for his extreme immigration policies).
Of course, there’s the argument that Democrats need to flip the House to activate our country’s safety brake before Trump drives it off the rails. But for those of us who are unable to vote yet live with the Trump White House’s disastrous and cruel policies, there are additional bureaucratic layers to be concerned about. If Democrats sit out this election, Donald Trump’s agenda and handpicked candidates will continue their crusade of terror against immigrants, minorities and people of color. No doubt the election will undoubtedly define the lives of the U.S.’ 11 million undocumented immigrants, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals beneficiaries like myself.
This first midterm election in the Trump era provides the country a distinct opportunity to send a message to politicians all across the country: Protection for Dreamers and DACA beneficiaries is long overdue.
So whether you’re a U.S. citizen concerned with the way our president has mishandled our country or a Dreamer wondering whether DACA will survive potential legal challenges, keep in mind there are ways you can help ensure candidates with real solutions on immigration are elected.
Of course, registered and eligible U.S. citizens should exercise their right to vote, but they should also help register and encourage other voters, whether Democrats or Republicans, to vote for candidates whose immigration solutions are grounded in reality, not rooted in the fear and hatred that Trump peddles on national television day in and day out.
For ineligible voters (that means you, Dreamers), volunteer with a local campaign. You might just help elect a mayor who will stand up to ICE, or a state representative or senator who will sponsor pro-migrant legislation, or a member of Congress who will ensure Trump’s next two years in office will be insufferable ones ― both for him and his right-wing extremist friends.
Juan Escalante is an immigrant advocate and online strategist who has been fighting for the Dream Act and pro-immigration policies at all levels of government for the past 10 years.