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Standing Against Trump—
Communities unite to protect immigrants



In-Depth Report


President-elect Donald Trump will be sworn in on Friday, January 20. As he takes the highest office in the United States, undocumented individuals and families will hold their breath hoping they will not have to leave the country they call home.

Over 70 events in cities nationwide, allies marched and held vigils, art creations, and mass community gatherings to build momentum for sanctuaries of safety and deportation defense networks in cities, schools, churches and states.

The mobilization day is a growing wave of resilience and defiance against Trump’s promises to rip families apart, create a Muslim registry and enact policies for example ‘stop and frisk’ rooted in racial profiling and discrimination.

In Johnson County, Kansas a program, Yearning to Breathe Free was sponsored by A.I.R.R. (Advocates for Immigrant Rights and Reconciliation) and MORE2 (Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity) gathered at the Overland Park Christian Church on 75th Street to discuss steps the community can take to help protect undocumented immigrants.

People packed the church last week eager to learn how they can help if Trump enacts his immigration policies. Local law enforcement leaders and Kansas City, Kansas Mayor Mark Holland were asked to commit to protect the undocumented immigrants that reside in their cities.

Raymond Rico, a resident of Wyandotte County and an immigration lawyer, asked Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash to stand beside him and make a commitment to those he serves that he will not ask for immigration status during lawful stops.

“I have no statuary authority from the state of Kansas nor do I have any constitutional authority from the constitution of the United States to enforce immigration law. I don’t work for the federal government, therefore it is not the policy of the sheriff office to inquire about people’s status, citizenship or immigration status when we have contact with them,” said Sheriff Ash.

Johann Sanchez attends M.E. Pearson Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas and is concerned about safety in schools as Trump takes office.

“After the elections I began feeling nervous and scared about what will happen with me and my family. When I went to school the next day, I forgot about it because school is my safe place. Will it still be safe for me?” asked Sanchez.

Jennifer Hernandez, a student at Wyandotte High School, worries that authorities will come into the schools to deport students. The students asked Superintendent of USD500 schools, Dr. Cynthia Lane, if schools will remain as their safe place.

An emotional Dr. Lane told the crowd, “let me be very clear we have developed policies where all of our students are safe. Children who come from all over the world and attend our schools will be safe. We are committed to keeping our schools safe, protecting the personal information of all of our students, ensuring that they are there to learn and grow and think about their dreams and not worry about looking over their shoulders,” she said.

During the meeting, hundreds of voices were heard throughout the church calling their United States Senators telling them to ‘reintroduce S.3542, the BRIDGE Act, to extend DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and protect the more than 740,000 young immigrants who already have received DACA status through Executive Order.’

Last Friday, a statement by AFT (American Federation of Teachers) President Randi Weingarten on the introduction of the bipartisan BRIDGE (Bar Removal of Individuals Who Dream and Grow Our Economy) Act, to provide temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for undocumented children 15 and older, if they came to the United States as children.

“Teenagers who arrived in our country as youngsters and have lived in the United States without issue must be assured they can live, drive, continue their education, work and pursue their dreams in the United States without fear of detention or deportation. The BRIDGE Act is one of the few pieces of legislation in the past few years that has been embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike and should be passed and signed into law. This legislation would give hundreds of thousands of Dreamers a temporary reprieve from deportation to keep their families intact, allow them to continue their education and work, and allow them to continue to pursue their dreams. The AFT strongly supports this legislation and hopes it becomes law quickly.”

United States Speaker of the House Paul Ryan during a Town Hall interview with Jake Tapper, Chief Washington Correspondent for CNN News, Ryan spoke with Angelica Villalobos, who was in the audience and admitted she is undocumented.

She has lived in the United States for 21 years, has a young daughter, and is a member of the DACA program.

“Do you think I should be deported and many families in my situation should?” she asked.

Ryan response to her was, “I can see that you love your daughter and you are a nice person who has a great future ahead of you. I hope your future is here. We have to find a way to make sure that you can get right with the law and we have to do this in a good way. I’m sure you are a great contributor to the community and we don’t want to see you get separated from your family. We have to figure out how to fix this but to do that, people need to have confidence that our laws are being followed. We need to know who is coming and going and that we actually have a secure border.”

After listening to the interview, Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, responded.

“If Speaker Ryan truly believes that Dreamers should not be deported and should be allowed to continue contributing, then he and the other GOP leaders should clearly state that Republicans will keep DACA in place until legislation that replaces it is signed into law. Empty promises from the Speaker will not protect Dreamers, nor do they change the fact that the Republican Congress and their President-elect are still on course to end DACA. Doing so would be cruel. Republican Congress leaders will continue to hide behind the same excuse it has used for the last decade. ‘We have to secure the border first before we can even consider doing something compassionate’,” said Sharry.

Kansas City, Kansas has over 11,000 undocumented people living and working within the community. Mayor Mark Holland made a commitment during the meeting to continue to protect his community members from mass deportations and continue to make Kansas City, Kansas a safe and welcoming community.

“Any of us who are not Native Americans are immigrants to this country. It would do well for us to have a bit of Christian humility about what the scripture calls us to do in terms of what we need to do for immigrants … we need to welcome the immigrant, the stranger in our community as ourselves. If you don’t subscribe to the moral element of doing the right thing, and the moral argument means nothing to you, then perhaps the economic impact the immigrants have on our local economy will. The economic impact of 11,000 people being removed from the economy of Kansas City, Kansas would be devastating for the entire metropolitan area,” said Mayor Holland.

The Reverend Bo Crowe and Reverend Ruth Rosell asked clergy members attending the gathering at Overland Park Christian Church to join them in making a commitment to offer undocumented members sanctuary.

“Sanctuary means a holy place, a temple or a church like we are currently in now. It also means a place of refuge or safety. It is a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter. We should reflect on what sanctuary means to us and what it would mean to the 11 million undocumented individuals who are living in the shadows in this most uncertain of times for them,” said Rev. Rosell.

Taking steps before President-elect Trump takes office, Rev. Bo Crowe said that if they publicly state they are a sanctuary place for undocumented people, then they are legal.

“We need to make a public statement, which could be a press release, or stating it publicly that we have taken in families, giving them sanctuary from deportation. Then we are legal, then I think folks we are doing God’s will,” said Rev. Crowe.

As a pastor and Mayor of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, Holland said he has been struggling with the human toll a deportation would cause.

“The vast majority of undocumented people, just like the vast majority of documented people, they are doing the right thing. They are working to raise their families and provide for their families. The idea of deporting parents and leaving children here to be under public care and foster care, is the most unchristian, unjewish, unmulsim thing I can think of. We have an obligation to speak up for the ones who do not have a voice,” he said.

Besides speaking out against deportations, he is also speaking out against eliminating ObamaCare, which will impact a large portion of Wyandotte County residents, if it is taken away.

“I was asked recently if I feel there will be repercussions for speaking out on the Affordable Care Act and immigration. Maybe. Folks can get mad at me, folks can vote against me, they can do a lot of things to me but they can’t deport me. I am here to stay and I am here to lift up the voice for those who can’t,” said Holland.

A MORE2 commitment card was handed out asking individuals to get involved with the Kansas or Missouri Issues Task Force of MORE2; call U.S. Senators about immigration reform and DACA, commit to making a safety plan for their own immigrant families or consider taking in a child whose parents are detained or deported.

The meeting was a call to action to unite in defense of immigrants and refugees against the incoming Trump regime’s plans for deportations, criminalization and hatred.

The Rev. Rich Behrens, of Grandview Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Kansas said that his church serves a diverse community of documented and undocumented immigrants.

“We are here in support of the immigrants and refugees who do so much for us and our communities. It is scary to be an undocumented immigrant in these times. We are a people who believe in immigration reform, we believe in the pathway to citizenship, and we believe that immigrants and their families have a right to feel safe and secure,” said Behrens.

Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C. said about the nationwide stand for immigrants, “We hope that every Senator and every Member of Congress saw our actions and hear our words, and we want President elect Trump to understand the might, the resiliency and the power of our immigrant families and the immigrant rights movement. We lifted the voices of immigrant and refugee leaders of all backgrounds and affirm our shared values around Unity, Love, Resistance, Defense and Sanctuary. We launched our movement’s demands of this new administration, which include respect for the civil rights and dignity for the recipients of DACA, for undocumented immigrant families, for refugees at risk and for Muslim families,” said Matos.

According to Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director and Co-Founder of United We Dream in Washington, D.C., said they too are standing up for immigrants and refugees.

“Together we will defend DACA and together we will protect immigrants and refugees. Politicians shouldn’t underestimate the resilience of immigrants and the millions of people of all backgrounds who stand with us. This is our home and my family and millions like us are #HereToStay,” said Jimenez.

On the local level, Kansas City, Kansas Police Chief Terry Ziegler endorsed that his police department will be there to help families, undocumented or documented, any person or families, that need their help or have been victims of crimes.

“I understand there is a reluctance from individuals who are undocumented, but please we want you to come forward and talk to our police department if you are a victim of crime. I would encourage you to not stay in the shadows, step out and help us combat crime and we will help you in any way that we can,” said Chief Ziegler.

Pastor Michael Brooks, co-chair of MORE2 ended the program with the following thought, “We are here today to make change, and it will take all of us. Change only happens when ordinary people get involved. We are ordinary people, coming together and demanding through our phone calls to Senators that they represent us and do the right thing,” said Pastor Brooks.