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The People’s History of 2018: How Advocates Fought Back This Year on Immigration

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The Trump Administration may have continued its all-out anti-immigrant assault throughout 2018, but they were met at every turn by countless courageous individuals who marched in the streets for their immigrant neighbors, voted against xenophobic candidates and campaigns, spoke truth to power, and demanded the Administration treat immigrants with dignity and fairness.

Those who stood up to anti-immigrant attacks from Trump and the GOP were immigrants and native-born, rural and urban voters, and advocates of every color and creed. Some were long-time advocates and some were standing up for the first time. Some were individuals acting alone and some were part of huge coalitions taking national action. They were all part of the increasing majority of Americans that supports immigrants and immigration. Below is just a small sample of regular people standing up for one another against Trump’s constant anti-immigrant attacks this year. It is a short list that is in no way meant to be comprehensive, but instead is a reminder that the cruel attacks against immigrants in 2018 did not go unchallenged.   

  • This year Dreamers continued to lead the fight to provide permanent protection for young immigrants. More than a year after Trump attempted to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the future for Dreamers remains uncertain. Dreamers began 2018 demanding that Congress pass a clean Dream Act granting them a pathway to citizenship, and nationwide demonstrations continued into the year. Multiple courts ruled in favor of DACA throughout 2018, keeping the program alive, but advocates are concerned about whether the Supreme Court will take up the issue in 2019 and how it might rule.
  • Throughout 2018, Washington, D.C.-area residents have repeatedly confronted Trump Administration officials who masterminded, implemented, and lied about their horrific policy of ripping children away from their families at the southern border. White nationalist and senior White House advisor Stephen Miller was confronted in a Mexican restaurant in June, just weeks after protesters chanted “shame” at DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen (also at a Mexican restaurant). Activists also hung “wanted” posters around Stephen Miller’s neighborhood, prompting a neighbor to tell Miller to “better be better!”
  • In May, a group of mothers, children, and advocates led a silent walkout of a DHS budget hearing where Kirstjen Nielsen continued to obscure the reality of the family separation crisis the Trump Administration created. Advocates walked out of multiple hearings Nielsen participated in, to underscore the continuing horrors of the zero tolerance policy.
  • In June, as part of the massive national outcry that arose over zero tolerance, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the country to demand the end of the practice.
  • Those outraged over the Trump Administration’s family separation policy also helped pool together millions of dollars to support immigrant families under attack. The immigrants rights group RAICES was able to raise $20 million dollars in just days over the summer, money that went a long way to support legal counsel that many immigrants would have been unable to afford.
  • In May, a group of advocates in Michigan held a 90-mile march to highlight Donald Trump’s mass-deportation policies and call attention to immigrants in their community like Ded Rranxburgaj. Ded and his wife Flora came to the U.S. from Albania some two decades ago fleeing civil unrest and religious persecution. ICE wanted to deport Ded even though his wife had multiple sclerosis. Ded had taken sanctuary in a church and was unable to visit his wife, who was in the hospital, so the marchers walked from Detroit to Lansing, Michigan to visit her for him.
  • In the summer, activists throughout the country began to occupy ICE offices in protest of their indiscriminate and cruel deportation tactics. Activists in Portland, Oregon, where the some of the first protests began, managed to shut down ICE operations for over a week. The tactic spread to diverse areas of the country including  Detroit, Louisville, Kentucky, Wichita, Philadelphia, and several other cities around the nation.    
  • Immigrants inside detention centers across the country held numerous hunger strikes this year to protest their conditions and demand their release. A group of immigrant fathers, who had had sons taken away from them at the border, been reunited with them, but kept in detention, went on short hunger strike at a facility in Texas. At least 60 immigrants went on a hunger strike for several days at a facility in Bristol County, Massachusetts to protest their conditions. Several immigrants conducted a similar hunger strike in Tacoma, Washington with Amar Mergensana, an asylum seeker from Buryatia, who died after conducting a hunger strike for a month.
  • In November, after the nation’s deadliest anti-Semitic attack ever at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, countless advocates participated in solidarity events throughout the nation showing support for the Jewish community and standing against hate. In Iowa, a constituent questioned white nationalist Congressman Steve King about how much responsibility he should bear after years of promoting xenophobia and extremist ideas. Steve King did not take the question well.
  • In the 2018 midterm elections, voters soundly rejected Donald Trump and Stephen Miller’s divide and distract strategy of demonizing immigrants in order to distract voters from the GOP’s unpopular policies. After the GOP foolishly embraced this strategy, voters delivered the most substantial gains for Democrats since the Watergate era. Voters also turned out definitively against some of the nation’s worst anti-immigrant candidates, including Kris Kobach in Kansas, Lou Barletta in Pennsylvania, and Cory Stewart in Virginia.  
  • Over Thanksgiving weekend, 26 members of CityWell United Methodist Church in North Carolina, including the head pastor, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience trying to protect Samuel Oliver-Bruno from ICE detention and deportation. Oliver-Bruno had been in sanctuary at CityWell for 11 months but had left for a USCIS appointment where he hoped to change his immigration status. Unfortunately, ICE ambushed Oliver-Bruno, arrested, and deported him.
  • In December, immigrant housekeepers who worked for years at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, bravely spoke about abuse there even though coming forward meant the loss of their jobs and potential deportation. “We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” Victorina Morales, one of the women to come forward said about Donald Trump. “We sweat it out to attend to his every need and have to put up with his humiliation.” The women also alleged mistreatment, coercion, and physical abuse by a supervisor at the Club.
  • On December 10, hundreds of faith leaders and community activists from across the country led a protest to the U.S.-Mexico border to decry the treatment of migrants there. Once at the border, 32 interfaith leaders engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience and were arrested by CBP.
  • Though the Trump Administration increased massive and militarized workplace immigration raids this year, making seven and half times as many workplace arrests as last year, communities affected by the raids stepped up to support their neighbors and help the families left behind. In O’Neill, Nebraska, after a large raid devastated the small town, about 80 community members staged a protest at the city courthouse in opposition to the removals. They carried signs that read “separating families is not Nebraska Nice” and “America is for Everyone.” Something similar happened after a massive raid in Morristown, Tennessee. After ICE arrested 97 immigrants at a local meat packing plant, the community surrounded their immigrant neighbors with support, including local teachers who stepped up to help the 500 students who missed school after the raids.  A week following the raid, some 300 community members led a march down the center of Morristown in support of their immigrant neighbors. This year, advocates also remembered the 10-year anniversary of the immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, one of the largest workplace immigration raids in the U.S. history, and where advocates gathered for rallies and prayer vigils throughout the day.  
  • While the Trump Administration systematically decided against Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for hundreds of thousands of immigrants, countless advocates blasted the decisions and called for protecting these longtime immigrant-Americans. In December, several unions delivered a petition with 60,000 signatures to Congress asking them to “Save Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and keep hard-working families together.” Also, more than 300 groups signed a letter calling on the new Congress — with a Democratic House majority — to take up legislation protecting TPS holders in their first 100 days.
  • After repeated after reports that CBP was again illegally turning away asylum seekers, U.S. Representatives Jimmy Gomez (CA-34) and Nanette D. Barragán (CA-44) went to the border and tried to investigate. Gomez and Barragán met 19 asylum seekers at the Otay Mesa port of entry, located just outside of San Diego. Over a 20-hour overnight stay with the asylum seekers, Gomez and Barragán made sure all the asylum seekers were processed and allowed to make their claims. Among the asylum seekers was Maria Meza, the mother whose photo went viral when she and her two young daughters were forced to flee tear gas fired by border patrol agents last month.
  • Late-night comedian Samantha Bee dedicated her Christmas special “Christmas on I.C.E.” to highlighting the Administration’s relentless attacks on immigrants this year. The show also raised money for KIND (Kids in Need of Defense) to provide legal assistance to immigrant children and separated families. Bee ended her show by announcing the donation of a five-bedroom home to Decatur, Georgia charity El Refugio Ministry, which provides temporary housing to families visiting their detained loved ones at the extremely remote Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia.  
  • As a government shutdown loomed at the end of December, advocates organized at the Capitol, visited members of Congress, and sang Christmas carols to make it clear that #Not1Dollar should be spent on Donald Trump’s border wall.