Process and Protest: After the Immigration Rallies


Guy Johnson | Sr. Program Director, Federal and National Networks, Partners for Each and Every Child

Also see Part 1 of this blog: Process and Protest and Detained Immigrant Children.

As temperatures topped 90 degrees in the nation’s capital on Saturday, thousands of people gathered at Lafayette Square in front of the White House for a rally against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” and family separation immigration policies. This scene was repeated across the country, in 110-degree heat in Chicago, and in various cities and locations from coast to coast.

Omaha, Alliance, Chadron, McCook, Scottsbluff ; in Nebraska, a reliably Republican state, there were protests in protestors shut down a swath of HIghway 61; in Troy, Missouri, hardly a bastion of liberal politics,protests in two dozen citiesConcern for the protection of human and civil rights -not partisan politics - are what drove thousands of people to march in the streets in the middle of a massive heat wave. The locations and nature of protests indicate as much. In Michigan, a state whose voters helped give Donald Trump the presidency, there were and Lincoln.

It is unclear what happens next. After the defeat of two bills in the U.S. House of Representatives last week that would have done something to address the country’s immigration crisis, there is no legislation currently pending in either house of Congress to resolve the issue.

In the meantime, the Trump administration continues to engage in large-scale workplace immigration raids, which also have the effect of breaking up families across the country, in some cases more than a thousand miles away from the southern border.

The raids and the terror of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy is also harming our schools: following a recent raid in Tennessee, several hundred students, almost 5 percent of the impacted school district, were absent from  school.

Several pending lawsuits complicate the issue somewhat. Last week, a federal judge in California  gave the federal government a 14-day deadline to reunite detained immigrant children under the age of 5 with their families, and a 30-day deadline to reunite all other children that had been separated from their parents over the previous month.

The night before the protests, however, the U.S. Department of Justice told a federal court that it is now keeping immigrant families in detention while their immigration cases are adjudicated. This could mean either detaining families for months at a time or ruling on cases in some kind of  rapid-fire, mass hearings, where large groups of undocumented immigrants will have their cases heard at the same time, perhaps without the representation of an attorney, or without having a translator present.

It also bears repeating:

The Trump administration’s behavior towards these immigrant children and their families is unconscionable. While the federal state of play on these issues continues to evolve, many of our partners are making helpful resources available, and we continue to collaborate with them to ensure that the vulnerable children in our schools are receiving the attention and care they need and deserve. Over the next few weeks, we will be working with our partners on a series of blog posts, reports, and articles to identify sensible, centrist, practical protections for these vulnerable students. There is much also to be done on a local level to protect the interests of these students.

In the meantime, here are a few things to note:

  • UnidosUS has written a blog about how President Trump’s recent Executive Order on immigration keeps the “zero tolerance” policy in place and children detained.

  • The Alliance for Excellent Education’s Federal Flash details how the President’s Executive Order does not direct the Department of Health and Human services to support the health and well-being of detained families or make any mention of reunifying the families that have already been separated.

  • The Migration Policy Institute has released a report detailing the impact of a rule proposed by the Trump administration that would make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain a green card or extend a temporary visa if they or their dependents — including U.S.-citizen children — use any of an expanded range of cash or noncash public benefits or tax credits for which they are eligible. They have also written an analysis of different legislative scenarios for undocumented youth.

  • Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), along with roughly twenty other civil rights groups, have  filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

  • MALDEF is also representing a group of young undocumented immigrants who are opposing a lawsuit filed by Texas and six other states to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The United States Department of Justice has announced it will not defend DACA.

You can also take action by holding your elected officials accountable:

  • Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-2311 to speak with your Congressional member about DACA and related “DREAMers” bills in the House and Senate, as well as about protections for undocumented students in the United States.

  • Contact your state educational agency (SEA) and local school board about the treatment and security of undocumented students where you live.