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Year In Review: Immigration in 2015

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Once again, this year, anti-immigrant forces threw everything they could at us – in Congress, in states, on the campaign trail – and once again, we showed that our movement never backs down and continues to grow stronger.

As we close 2015, we look back a slew of anti-immigrant rhetoric that has not only dominated the media landscape – but has had real life consequences in the form of harassment of latinos and immigrants at the hands of Donald Trump and his supporters.

That being said, some notable victories came out of 2015. Texas based activists were able to defeat a Republican led effort to repeal the Texas Dream Act, Nebraska joined the rest of the country in offering drivers licenses to DACA beneficiaries, and Latinos have united in an effort to denounce racism and xenophobia.

These victories represent the power of the immigrant and Latino community. As we look back on 2015, let us remember that despite a number of setbacks, we are still able to influence and push back against the attacks on immigrant communities across the country.

Here are three key moments in 2015 where Latinos and immigrants pushed back against Republican led efforts to undo all of the progress we have achieved on immigration:

Republicans thought they could defeat us in Congress.

Republicans tried to shut down the Department of Homeland Security over President Obama’s immigration executive actions, proving just how far they are willing to go on immigration: all the way to risking our national security. They also went after policing policies that protect immigrants, and tried to shut our doors to the world’s most vulnerable refugees. But common sense prevailed. DHS was funded without poisonous immigration riders. We ended the year with the refugee program intact, and attacks on community policing beaten back.     

Republicans thought they could defeat us in the courts.

Republicans hand-selected a biased and anti-immigrant judge, Andrew Hanen, to take up their lawsuit against expanding DACA and creating DAPA. Just one day before DACA expansion was set to begin, Hanen overstepped his authority and issued a nationwide injunction against DACA 2.0 and DAPA. Immigrants and their allies were devastated, but vowed to fight even harder to achieve full implementation of these landmark policies and build on them to protect the rest of the immigrant community. A conservative panel at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rubber-stamped his ruling, while the DC Court of Appeals dismissed Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s related lawsuit, setting the stage for a Supreme Court battle to come.  

The pro-immigration movement continues to prepare for our eventual victory in the courts. The case is teed up for potential consideration by the Supreme Court next year, with a decision coming right in the middle of the 2016 general elections. The law is on our side, and once the Supreme Court applies the law, millions of families will be able to come forward and apply for legal protection.

Republicans thought they could defeat us on the campaign trail.  

They decided to run once again on an anti-immigrant platform, reasoning that immigrants without the right to vote would make easy scapegoats.  The rise of Donald Trump gave rise to the Trump Effect, a race to the bottom engaged in by nearly every Republican presidential contender.  But our movement responded with calls to DumpTrump. We proved to the world that racism isn’t funny.

We used science to show that the Republican Party cannot win the White House without garnering 42% to 47% of the Latino vote—something they won’t be able to win by calling immigrants “rapists” or proposing to ban whole groups from the U.S. based on their religion.

And since undocumented immigrants will be represented at the ballot box by a growing number of children, friends, relatives, neighbors and friends—since 2/3 of the Latino voting community knows someone who is undocumented—the GOP’s anti-immigrant primary season will come back to haunt them.

In great contrast to the Republican slate, all three Democratic contenders have adopted pro-immigrant policies on both legislative reform and expanded executive action. They took time to speak directly to the people at the heart of the immigration debate, in great contrast to the Republicans who only speak about them.

Of course, the Trump Effect on the Republican primary is still having a broader, damaging impact on society, one that the pro-immigration reform community needs to continue to fight against with every breath and ounce of power we have. The backlash of hate crimes and hate speech against Muslims or people perceived to be Muslim, Arabic, immigrants, or refugees is a national disgrace.

The pro-immigration movement has long had a way of pushing off of adversity and finding a way to build unity, since the days of Proposition 187 and Pete Wilson. We don’t just sit back when we are attacked, we use the moment to create power and keep building towards victory.  

2015 was an important year for the cause to advance immigrants’ rights. Next year will be even bigger, with a potential Supreme Court decision and major elections at stake. We look forward to seeing what 2016 brings.