From Consortium News
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) SWAT officers.
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A grassroots rebellion against President Trump's anti-immigration policies is taking shape in California and across the country, spearheaded by farmworkers, day laborers, immigrant domestic workers and their supporters.
One of its leaders is Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day-Laborer Organizing Network or NDLON, who is sometimes called the "Cesar Chavez of undocumented Day Laborers."
I spoke to Alvarado after a strategy session that he had convened with staff and supporters in the immigrants' rights movement in California and across the nation.
Dennis Bernstein: I know you just emerged from a national planning meeting in terms of beginning a series of proactive steps in response to Trump's frontal assault on all immigrants and their supporters. I think you were calling it Alto Trump, Stop Trump. Could you outline what you all were talking about and planning in response to the Trump directives?
Pablo Alvarado: Sure. Well, during the electoral process ... we saw and heard all of the incendiary and overheated rhetoric, and racist rhetoric, by the President, by President Trump. And people thought, "Maybe he doesn't really mean it." Then he won and people said "Well, maybe we gotta give him a chance. Maybe he's not as bad as it appears." Then he comes into power, and then by the fourth day of him being in power we know what he really is about.
The executive decisions that he has taken are decisions that will impact ... the lives of many, not just undocumented immigrants, but all of the folks that he intended to attack, during the electoral campaign. We're talking about Muslims, we're talking about women, African-Americans, the disabled, members of the LGBTQ community, and, of course, the undocumented ... community.
And now we're seeing that he actually meant what he said. Now the question is what kind of resources he's going to put into those initiatives that he wants to push for. It appears that he is serious about [increasing] the number of ICE agents from 5,000 to 15,000. He's talked about an ICE force, an immigration enforcement force. They're here. And with 15,000 officers across the country, the persecution is going to be unprecedented. He spoke about the wall, about reviewing NAFTA, it appears that he's moving on all of those fronts. And it's not going to be a good thing for us.
And so, it's becoming more and more clear to us, that he meant what he said. So, now, for us, the first act of resistance that we need to put together is people knowing, understanding and exercising their rights.
The second level of that, the process of resistance, is coming together with neighbors and building these migrants defense collectives, across the country. Where, at this point, what we feel is that communities shouldn't expect an organization to come and save them, or leaders to come and save them, or a political party to come and save them.
This is a moment for people who have been harmed by the policies of this President to stand up and organize themselves, and defend themselves. Oftentimes when I am talking to undocumented people I tell them, "Hey, there's good news, and the good news is that Mr. Trump has stated that he's only going to prosecute criminals and deport criminals. The bad news is that we're all criminals, in his mind."
ICE officers during the second national wave of Operation Cross Check, an effort by ICE to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records. September 28, 2011.
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And, in terms of the law, he is going to expand the definition of what a serious misdemeanor is, and what a serious felony is, to deport more people. He's going to, obviously, in order for him to accomplish what he said he's going to do, in terms of deporting two to three million people in the first years of his mandate, the only way that he can do that is by enlisting local police to enforce immigration law.
And, of course, you know we plan to put up a fight. If he thinks that we are going to go quietly into the night, without putting up a fight, he is fundamentally wrong. So, the struggle is going to be at all levels: defending ourselves in the neighborhoods, litigation -- our legal team is rethinking and retooling, and finding the legal grounds that we're going to need to challenge the measures that Mr. Trump implements against our community.
For example, in California we have introduced a legislation called the California Values Act, which actually would prohibit the state of California from investing any dime, any dollars, in the deportation, interrogation, detention of undocumented people. So, that bill is moving forward in the legislature.