This Week’s Anti-ICE Protests May Signal That Immigration Activism Has Entered a New Era

Lead Photo: Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times
Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times
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After Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested Guadalupe García de Rayos during her regularly scheduled check-in with the agency, the 36-year-old mother of two burst into the national spotlight after activists put their bodies on the line in an attempt to stop her deportation. Unfortunately, their protests didn’t deter the government from deporting Lupita. But as one of the first undocumented immigrants affected by President Donald Trump’s new deportation order – which expands the definition of “criminal alien” to encompass a wider range of people and not just those who pose a public or national safety threat, had ties to criminal gangs, and committed a series of felonies or minor crimes – this case could serve as a model of what resistance may look like in our current political climate. And on Thursday evening, activists once again showed the fight for immigrants’ rights is relentless work in the era of Trump.

ICE took an approximate 100 people into custody on Thursday, leading activists to protest in downtown Los Angeles, reports the Los Angeles Times. Similar to Guadalupe García de Rayos’s case, the news commanded national attention. ICE denies that it rounded up as many as 100 during sweeps and maintained that it’s just following long-established protocols. ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said the raids “[prioritized individuals who pose a risk to our communities. Examples would include known street gang members, child sex offenders, and deportable foreign nationals with significant drug trafficking convictions. To that end, ICE’s routine immigration enforcement actions are ongoing.”

Lawyers, however, dispute this. Karla Navarrete, a lawyer with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) said she as well as other immigration lawyers have seen an increase in calls from families of those in ICE custody. CHIRLA spokesman Jorge-Mario Cabrera said that in a typical day, the coalition only learns of a few arrests daily, according to KPCC. Navarrete adds that not all those arrested have convictions, like a man detained in Van Nuys. “This person has an old deportation order from 2011, I believe,” she said. “And they have identified him and picked him up. He has no convictions, but he has a deportation order.” Additionally, ICE isn’t allowing those detained to contact their lawyers, CHIRLA stated.

Kevin de León, California Senate President Pro Tempore, released a statement asking federal officials for an official count on how many children, men, and women were detained, why they were arrested, and urged them to grant everyone access to an attorney, KTLA reports.

ICE’s actions caused outrage, and immigration advocates came out in droves to peacefully protest at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown LA. For about two hours, they chanted, “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” Following this, 100 to 150 people blocked an entrance to the 101 Freeway in downtown Los Angeles in protest of ramped-up immigration orders, according to ABC 7.

The fight for immigrants is nothing new. It began long before Trump and will continue after his presidency ends. After all, its Dreamers’ direct actions and advocating that led President Barack Obama to enact the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which shielded undocumented immigrants who spent most of their lives in the US from deportation and offered them a chance to work and study. Even with the policy in place, Obama faced a lot of opposition for deporting more than 2.5 million immigrants, earning him the title of deporter-in-chief. And he’ll continue to garner criticism after funneling more money into streamlining ICE – essentially giving Trump the tools to further rip the undocumented community apart.

During his campaigning, Trump promised to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants who call the United States home. Less than a month into his presidency, especially after his executive order on deportation came to light, there’s an added sense of urgency. Viridiana Martinez, a DACA recipient who lives North Carolina, for example, believes that a Trump Administration will dramatically alter immigrant rights organizing.

As NPR stated, local lawmakers’ promises to defy Trump’s policies coincide with what grass-roots activists have pushed for. And some believe this is just the beginning – with the fight for immigrant rights potentially taking center stage like never before. “In the coming years, you’re going to see people fighting to establish new civil rights protections in cities by forging new ground with policies that might not have been deemed possible even as recently as two months ago,” said Chris Newman, legal director for the National Day Labor Organizing Network.

Today, the resistance continues in New York City. In light of Trump’s Muslim ban and growing fear that his administration will deport millions of added immigrants, Resist Here, Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change are hosting an emergency rally. Taking place from 6 to 8 p.m. tonight, the groups want to send one message to Trump: “This will NOT happen in New York City under our watch.” Learn more about the event here.