After Nationwide ICE Raids, 50,000 People in Milwaukee Rose up to Say the Arrests Were Wrong
As seventeen-year-old Daniel Gutierrez Ayala marched in Milwaukee on Monday, he thought about the fate of his undocumented parents in Trump’s America. He thought about his own tenuous future as a recipient of President Obama’s deferred action program, and his dream of one day becoming a lawyer who fights for the immigrant community.
As he walked, the high school senior took comfort in the fact that he was not alone. Tens of thousands walked with him—day laborers and business owners who closed shop for the day, schoolchildren and working parents who had taken the morning off, teachers and office workers, activists of all colors and creeds, all eager to partake in one of the largest single manifestations for immigrant rights since President Donald Trump took office.
“We have to remember to stay strong, not fear,” Gutierrez Ayala said. “And what else can we do? Just sit there? We’re not going to take it. We’re going to organize as best as we can as a family and a community.”
In the wake of nationwide raids last week that swept up more than 680 undocumented immigrants, activists have packed the streets across the country in a show of resistance to the anti-immigrant policies of President Donald Trump and local officials supporting him, including Milwaukee County’s Sheriff David Clarke, who has vowed to empower his deputies to act as immigration agents in accordance with the President’s executive orders on interior immigration enforcement.
ICE officials say last week's raids were routine, but Trump has gone out of his way to take credit for the vigorous crackdown, and immigrant rights groups tell The Progressive they’re alarmed at what they say is a much broader dragnet than under Obama.
What’s clear is that while the previous administration generally targeted people with criminal records, Trump’s dragnet is sweeping up people like Guadalupe García de Rayos, thirty-five, a mother of two in Arizona whose only crime was working with a Social Security number that was not hers and whose case has galvanized activists. Up to eight million undocumented immigrants fall under the new parameters for deportation, according to an analysis by the LA Times.
“They would like us to disarm ourselves by pretending this is normal,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, executive director of Voces de La Frontera, which organized the march, called “Dia sin Latinos, Inmigrantes, y Refugiados” or “ Day Without Latinos, Immigrants and Refugees” in English. “The fact is that they are stepping up their presence.”
Across the country, immigrant advocates like Neumann-Ortiz are also continuing the vital work of building sanctuary networks, lobbying elections officials at all levels, and running workshops to inform people about their rights when confronted by immigration agents. They’re ramping up resistance efforts as Trump continues his attack on the immigrant community, including with his now legally invalidated seven-country Muslim ban.
Electoral politics have failed to address issues pressing to immigrants, Neumann-Ortiz said, so she and others organized decided a strike would be more effective, modeling Monday’s action along those that took place in the spring of 2006, when millions of immigrants and allies took to the street in a series of demonstrations to defeat a draconian immigration bill being considered in Congress at the time. Already, Neumann-Ortiz and others are hoping to take the anti-Trump momentum and build up a May Day general strike this year.
“When there isn't any recourse at the political level, it has been through the general strike that we’ve been able to have our power felt,” she said. The group held its first “Dia Sin Latinos” march in Wisconsin last year, but this year’s attendance was nearly triple at around 50,000, organizers say.
In West Chicago, Illinois, the pastor Jose S. Landaverde scanned the packed pews Sunday at the Faith, Life, and Hope and St. Peter the Apostle Mission, delivering a homily about immigration that resonated with the heavily Mexican and Mexican-American audience.
Since news reports came out of raids across the country, including in major cities that have declared themselves sanctuaries, congregants had been coming to him for counsel, many terrified. During mass, he spoke about the need to respect God’s law while transforming man’s unjust laws, alluding to Trump’s executive orders and the millions of deportations that took place under Obama,
He exhorted his congregants to stand strong, to provide help to neighbors in these trying times. Landaverde, himself a refugee from El Salvador, pledged his church would continue to be a sanctuary church. Since October, his church has hosted one immigrant targeted by ICE, and the parish is prepared to take more if necessary, he says.
“What we’re concerned with right now is providing a comprehensive response to stop these deportations,” Landaverde told The Progressive in Spanish.
At the Los Angeles Filipino United Church of Christ, the Reverend Doctor Art Cribbs had similar message for worried parishioners, assuring them the church would be there for them.
Cribbs and others told The Progressive that since the Muslim ban, more activists from Muslim and Jewish congregations have joined the heavily Latino immigrant movement. Cribbs is part of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, which has worked to expand the network of sanctuary churches and places of worship in California.
Since Trump’s election, the number of churches in the Bay, Inland Valley, and Claremont areas have risen from four to fifteen, said Interfaith immigration director Deborah Lee. Nationally, there are more than 800 congregations that have become sanctuaries since November 8, up from about 350. And Lee is in consultation with many others in California to join the burgeoning network.
Yet there is much uncertainty for the movement. Lee said she wonders whether ICE under the Trump administration will honor a longstanding policy of not entering churches. There’s also an ambiguously worded part of the interior enforcement executive order that may mean sanctuary churches can face penalties for helping the undocumented, she says.
Church sanctuaries are just one front. Groups such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) have been expanding efforts to educate people about their rights when confronted with immigration agents, as well as upping efforts to make legal residents citizens in order to minimize their risk of removal.
Twice a week, Luis Huerta-Silva does Know Your Rights workshops in the Chicago area as part of ICIRR’s outreach efforts. Demand has grown tremendously since the election; recently, he more than 100 people to attend an event at a local college.
During these workshops, he counsels people not to open the door to ICE without first seeing a warrant, and to contact a lawyer before signing any papers or answering questions. Many of the arrests last week, he and others told The Progressive, were “collateral arrests,” meaning those detained weren’t the original targets but got swept up in the raid once agents confirmed they were in the country without documents. Most were house raids, but there were also reports of workplaces being targeted.
The tactics are not new, but Trump’s rhetoric and recent executive orders could embolden agents to expand unfair practices, he told The Progressive.
There is now an expanding network of affordable lawyers ready to help, said Mayra Joachin, a staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. Like ICIRR, the LA-based law center holds workshops on rights and citizenship, in addition to providing legal services. With the uncertainty around how the Trump administration will implement its policy, it's more important than ever that immigrants become more knowledgeable about the legal process that might await them.
Not long ago, Gutierrez Ayala’s undocumented parents were stopped by police as they drove without a license. If Trump and Sheriff Clarke have their way, the next time that happens his parents could be detained and, later, deported. He himself will be at risk if Trump does away with DACA. That’s why Gutierrez Ayala will continue to march and organize.
“There’s fear, but there’s resistance.” he said. “We’re not going to give up without a fight.”