Activists briefed reporters from ethnic media on a conference call about their resistance to President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office, and what’s next for immigrant rights.
The approximately one-hour telephonic press briefing was hosted by New America Media (NAM), a nationwide association of over 3,000 ethnic media organizations (representing the development of a more inclusive journalism) and Ready California, a coalition of legal services providers, community-based organizations, unions, faith-based organizing groups, ethnic media, foreign consulates, and more, who provide legal support to immigrant communities.
Odette Alcazaren-Keeley, NAM’s National Media Network director, facilitated the call. Speakers were Angelica Salas, executive director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Adriana Guzman, outreach coordinator, Faith in Action Bay Area), and Melissa Lim Chua immigration director, International Rescue Committee.
The activists also briefed reporters on recent major wins and losses of the immigrant rights movement and gave an update on raids, and who is being targeted.
“How do immigrants, civil rights, and refugee rights advocates view the first 100 days of the Trump Administration? How bad are things? … Where do you see the signs of hope,” Alcazaren-Keeley asked Chua, as she began the session.
First, Chua expressed that it’s worth noting that since January, the Trump Administration has undertaken sweeping changes in immigration policy.
Those changes include signing a number of executive orders; two focusing on increasing enforcement at the southern border and in the interior United States, Chua said.
She highlighted a third, known as the travel ban, which was issued on Jan. 27. The ban is aimed to curtail travel from certain predominantly Muslim countries, and lower the amount of refugees allowed admission into the U.S., Chua said.
“Finally, a fourth executive order signed in April called in federal agencies to enforce laws to protect the interests of U.S. workers, and for those agencies to suggest reforms to reduce fraud and abuse in the H1B Visa (a temporary work visa) System, “ she continued.
Some of the orders have had immediate effects on immigrants, Chua said. For instance, arrests of non-citizens arose in the U.S. more than 30 percent from Jan. 20 to March 13, compared to the same time frame in 2016, she said.
“And, despite the injunction by courts on the travel ban, the rate of admission of refugees has been low, since the (Trump) administration took office, endangering tens of thousands of refugees who have already been vetted by the U.S. Government,” she stated.
However, many of the proposed changes face real, significant hurdles, such as a lack of funding and blockage by courts, and Chua continued.
The speakers also gave updates in proposed changes to immigration policy.
During Q&A, Henrietta Burroughs of East Palo Alto Today, asked the panelists how they defined “immigrant community”.
Burroughs said she sought to know which immigrants the panelists were discussing, because immigrants from Southern Africa are five times more likely to be deported than any other immigrants.
“When we think of immigrants in this country, we think of those south of the border, where the emphasis Trump has on building a wall, but those are not the immigrants who are most likely to be deported,” Burroughs further explained.
CHIRLA works with all communities, from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, especially the most impacted, Salas stated.
“I believe that the statistic that you talk about is that African immigrants who have any kind of connection or any kind of engagement with law enforcement are five times more likely to be deported,” Salas replied.
She continued, saying African immigrant communities are extremely vulnerable around racial profiling. “The other thing that I think is important for you to know is that 98 percent of the deportations that happen in this country are from people from Mexico and Central America,” Salas added.