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mural of immigrants in Mission, San Francisco. credit Franco Folini at https://goo.gl/Lm2Lev

Want to Fight for Immigrants? Here’s Why and How

Garcia, a mother in Phoenix, is on her way to work at the amusement park, distracted with worry about her son’s cold. She punches in, walks toward her station, waving at her friend, but someone grabs her arm. She turns to see a pair of Border Patrol agents and her heart stops.


Garcia gets off relatively easy- this time. For the crime of a false social security number she used to find work, the court requires her to check in with Border Patrol once a year after she served her initial sentence.

 

A few years and check ins passed, without event. Her two children, American citizens, grew a little older. Then, on Wednesday the 8th, she reported to the office for the annual ritual, her son and daughter waiting outside with some friends.

 

Instead of returning quickly as usual, hours pass with no news. The morning fades into afternoon, afternoon into evening before the children finally see their mother in the back of a white van, about to be deported.

 

That is all to say, Donald Trump is following through on another campaign promise: the promise of a hailstorm of fear rained on “the other” with a deportation force.

While it may have gotten lost in the shuffle, Donald signed another hate filled executive order on January 25th. The order got attention for its call to stop federal funding for sanctuary cities- cities that refuse to be tools of Border Patrol. What the media missed was the massive expansion of Border Patrol powers to deport.

Under Obama, Border Patrol prioritized violent criminals or those who committed certain drug or gang crimes for deportation. Under Trump? Targets for deportation don’t need to be violent. They don’t need to be convicted of a crime. They don’t need to be arrested. They don’t even need to be accused. The standard for priority deportation is now suspicion of dishonesty with immigration officials. And now we’re getting word that Trump is planning a memo authorizing immediate deportation powers throughout the entire country even for folks who  

We are seeing the impact across the country as Border Patrol began snatching people up in raids in at least 6 states. They have rounded up hundreds: men on their way to work from a Virginia apartment complex, women out of their homes in Los Angeles, an employee in the middle of his shift at a local Target.

There is plenty to fear for immigrants now, but there is also some small reason to hope. You see, Garcia’s story doesn’t end in that van.

Her children and local activists began a facebook livestream while she was being detained. When officials finally brought her out in the van, they used the livestream to show exactly what was happening. They urged viewers to show up and help. And then? They put their bodies on the line. They stood in front of the van and laid in front of the wheels, taping the whole time.

The crowd of supporters grew as night fell. A lawyer who worked with the activists sought emergency relief. The organizing network they belong to launched phone campaigns pressuring John McCain, petition drives, and media blitzes with the #Not1More. They fought hard.

But I never said this story ended happily. After 15 hours of brave community resistance, Garcia was transferred to a different bus, this one escorted by a police squadron, and deported to Northern Mexico.

This is still reason for hope. Or rather, reason for you to be the hope. Activists fought hard and lost this time. But we learned something from them. When the lawyers and the callers and the hashtags were plugging away, what made some tangible if short-lived difference? A small group of dedicated people who were willing to put their own bodies in the way of injustice. People willing to wrap their bodies around the wheels of a van rather than watch them roll over the hearts of a family. People who showed up and stood up.

Promise me you’ll be the body in the way. Promise it to yourself, to Garcia, to the immigrants who make our country run and to the conscience of the generations to come. Because the raids have begun and so must the resistance.

 

About Quinn Dunlea

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