From Consortium News
Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
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There is "widespread fear" in the undocumented community, says Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), whose work in the first two months of the Trump administration has focused on keeping people from panicking while informing them of their rights and how to defend themselves if U.S. immigration agents show up at their workplace or home or intercept them on their way to work or while taking their children to school.
Alvarado is often compared to Cesar Chavez in terms of his leadership and organizing power in the undocumented community. NDLON represents tens of thousands of day-laborers. I spoke to Alvarado on March 10.
Dennis Bernstein: Help us put a face on what it looks like now at ground level. What are the discussions like in the community? Give us a sense of how people are responding to this first salvo, or series of salvos from this anti-immigrant administration.
Pablo Alvarado: Yes, well, there is widespread fear. And, because of the aggressiveness nature of the Trump's immigration policies, the bans, the executive decisions that he's made. And the fact that ICE agents are going all over the country picking people up. They claim that they were going to go after people who have had previous criminal convictions, and violent criminals. That's what they said, but it's not true.
A lot of people who don't have any convictions have been detained. And some people who have had previous convictions like DUIs, dating 15 - 20 years ago are coming back. These folks don't represent a threat to public safety, but yet they're being targeted. They are being separated from their loved ones.
DB: Just to keep the human face on it, in that regard. There was, in fact, a dad who was here 20 - 22 years who was taking, I guess, his kid... he had three or four kids, but he was taking his kid to school, he was separated from his kid, on the way to school?
PA: Correct. It's one of the cases that our organization is assisting with. Romulo [Avelica-Gozalez] essentially was taking his kids to the school when he was actually followed by ICE agents. Who, by the way, were not wearing their uniform. Their jackets said that they were police. So, anyway, this type of situation is sending a wave of fear in our community. So, oftentimes, people see white vans driving in the neighborhoods and everyone freaks out. And they start posting on social media. "We saw ICE agents, the vans, ICE vans in such and such location."
And all of us feel this widespread fear. And people are staying inside. So, the good thing is that a lot of allies, immigrants' rights organizations, churches understand that there is this fear. So there is an effort to suppress that fear, and ensure that whatever notification goes out of ICE presence in the neighborhoods, that it's real. That it's not based on the fear.
So, there is no way, absolutely no way, that our community can defend without removing that fear. You cannot fight back when you're fearful, or when you hate somebody, when you're angry. So, our defense has to be very rational, and well thought out. And there is no way we can fight back effectively from a perspective of anger, hatred or fear. And that's why it's essential that we remove that fear.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) SWAT officers.
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DB: Alright, and last we spoke you were beginning to set up structures, networks that people could communicate across states, across the country. And so, really I guess, the way to counteract fear is with knowledge and with an approach that's methodical. So, how is that going? How is the community organizing? How is that coming together? If it is.
PA: Yeah. Well, let me elaborate more about the fear, the strategy of fear. Because it's important that Americans understand what this is about. So, it's important to recognize this small segment of nativism, xenophobes, that are promoting this fear, and, who, by the way, are now in power. Who have the power of the federal government, at their hands. We're talking about Steven Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Kris Kobach. These are the main advisers of President Trump. And these folks have been the leaders of these efforts to create that fear. Because they have never been interested in fixing the so-called broken immigration system. They've never been interested, in that.
What they want to do is bring down the non-white, foreign-born population. It's been very clear. They know that realistically speaking, logistically speaking they cannot deport 11 - 12 million people. They're not interested in that. What they want is they want to create so much misery that people will pack their bags, and leave on their own. This is the idea, attrition through enforcement strategy.
And they've never forgotten that strategy. And the main proponents of that strategy are now in power. So that's what it comes from. And obviously creating that fear is not just directed towards immigrants.