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Growing Number of States, Cities, Colleges, and Churches Vow to Protect Immigrants, Resist Trump Deportation Agenda

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A growing number of states, cities, colleges, and faith communities are pledging to defend immigrant residents of their communities and rising up to say ‘no’ to Donald Trump’s deportation agenda. The strength, focus and breadth of this growing resistance promises to be an important bulwark for the effort to defend immigrant workers and families during the Trump era.

At the state level, California is taking the lead among pro-immigrant states by unveiling a sweeping set of pro-immigrant policies. As Jennifer Medina writes in the NewYork Times:

“Top Democratic lawmakers in California are moving to enact sweeping legislation to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation, the first sign of what they say will be an effort to resist immigration policies championed by President-elect Donald J. Trump.

The laws, which will be introduced Monday, would provide free legal help to undocumented immigrants during deportation proceedings, offer more assistance in criminal court, and further limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration agents. The measures contrast sharply with the kind of policies that Mr. Trump pressed on the campaign trail.

‘Throughout the presidential campaign and since, the president-elect has made many troubling statements that run counter to the principles that define California today,’ said Kevin de León, the Senate president pro tempore, who is backing the package. ‘There is no greater policy area than immigration where the comments run headlong to the values we share as Californians.’

The legislation suggests the level of opposition Mr. Trump may face in California, a state where 40 percent of the population is Latino. The leaders of both chambers of the Legislature are Latino, as is the state’s attorney general-designee, Xavier Becerra. Mr. de León said that pushing immigration measures would be a priority of the Legislature.

… [Mr. de León]: ‘If the president-elect has identified two to three million criminal immigrants, we can only assume it’s a pretense to open up criteria to deport mothers who are pulled over for a broken taillight. We want to ensure that those facing deportation are afforded due process, so that the most vulnerable are protected.’”

At the city and local level, a growing number of jurisdictions have been speaking out on behalf of their undocumented residents and advocating for local control over policies guiding how law enforcement should engage with federal deportation agents (see an overview herefor a list and quotes from local leaders in more than 30 different states pledging to support their undocumented residents against Trump deportation efforts).

Leading Spanish-language media outlets have been putting protection of DREAMers and other immigrants front and center in recent days. For example, La Opinión and Univision report on the important role mayors are playing across the country in defending their immigrant residents.

Among the key and recent developments at the city level include: in Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray recently signed an executive order reaffirming that “Seattle is a welcoming city,” and in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a new, $1 million immigrant legal fund that will “provide immediate legal information, screenings, consultations and representation to individuals who may be at risk for deportation.” The push to strengthen legal protection and services for immigrants also is a core feature of the sweeping package of pro-immigrant measures being advanced in California’s legislature.

Meanwhile, college campuses remain incubators of support for immigrants: recent examples include the recent round of walk-outs on campuses throughout the nation; a national letter signed by hundreds of college and university leaders and a letter signed by more than 70 Catholic college leaders each pledging to protect undocumented students; and pro-immigrant announcements from such recent major universities such as NYU and the University of California system. A new Associated Press story from Russell Contreras and Sophia Tareen provides an overview of how and why universities are becoming focal points of resistance to Trump immigration policies:

 “Universities and colleges in several states are considering labeling themselves ‘sanctuary campuses’ amid fears from immigrant students and pressure from activists following the election of Donald Trump. College administrators in New Mexico — the state with the highest percentage of Latino residents— are looking into proposals that would grant immigrant students living in the country illegally protections while they pursue their studies. Meanwhile, advocates in California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota and Texas are pressing their state and private universities to provide sanctuary to these immigrant students, known as DREAMers.

…Trump’s alma mater — the University of Pennsylvania — even has renewed its pledge to block federal agents without a warrant from removing students in the country illegally. ‘Let us be unequivocally clear: We are and remain resolute in our commitment to Penn’s undocumented students and will do all that we can to ensure their continued safety and success here at Penn,’ University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and other administrators wrote in a letter released Wednesday.

Students and professors at University of Illinois campuses are circulating petitions to make their schools sanctuary campuses. One such group in Chicago gathered more than 1,700 signatures and turned them over to school leaders. A Nevada education philanthropist also is pushing for UNLV, College of Southern Nevada and Nevada State College to declare themselves sanctuary campuses.”

And as Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast reports in a new story, churches and the faith community remain an essential voice of pro-immigrant resistance to Trump’s deportation plans. As Woodruff writes:

“If Donald Trump keeps all his campaign promises, thousands of churches could disappear. That’s according to Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an evangelical group with more than 40,000 affiliated congregations.

‘The very viability of our churches—these are our church members,’ he said. ‘You’re talking about shutting down churches. If you would ever deport 11, 12 million people, you would shut down so many Latino churches. And I mean so many in thousands, without any hyperbole.’

… And some churches in Los Angeles are considering hosting undocumented immigrants facing deportation, on the assumption that ICE agents won’t enter churches to track them down. In the 1980s, many Christian churches protected Central American refugees from deportation as part of what was called the Sanctuary Movement. That movement still exists, and will likely be reinvigorated if Trump substantially increases deportations.

Alison Harrington, the pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, is involved with the movement, and said that in recent years, her church has housed two people to keep them from being deported—one for 28 days and another for 461 days. She said she knows of 16 people total who have hidden from immigration agents in churches since 2014. Her church helped launch the sanctuary movement when it first started back in the 1980s, and now works with churches prepared to shelter immigrants. ‘It’s in our DNA as a congregation,’ she said. ‘This is a fundamental aspect of what it means to be people of faith in the borderland.’”