For the past four months, a woman named Ingrid has been living in a church in Colorado, in defiance of the federal government. She has resided in the United States for nearly half of her life and raised her family here. Now, facing the imminent threat of deportation, seeking sanctuary there is her only hope of staying with her husband and two small children, in the country she’s called home for nearly 20 years.
Throughout the US, there are at least 12 million other immigrants in similar situations. As I write this, Trump’s agents are rounding up hundreds of people in Southern California and other American cities; earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to subpoena any mayor who might try to protect their residents and local public safety systems from the president’s raids.
As ICE agents target undocumented people, the Trump administration is working tirelessly to make it more difficult for others to enter the country legally: Trump's immigration advisor Stephen Miller has made ending legal family migration his mission. He’s the mind behind what has been described as the White House’s “ransom note” approach to recent immigration policy negotiations, one that grants nominal protections to young immigrants while persecuting their families. And he’s pushing to reduce the immigrant population altogether in ways that would rewrite both our traditions and who we are as a country.
For decades, the US immigration system has allowed immigrants to reunite with immediate family, like a spouse or parent, but only after getting through a gauntlet-like process of becoming a citizen—which often takes upwards of 10 years. This is how more than half of women immigrate to the US. (In fact, it’s most likely what permitted First Lady Melania Trump’s Slovenian parents to emigrate to and become permanent residents.)
Miller and other top officials want to change that. They use dehumanizing language to describe immigration, callously referring to families as “chains,” and instead calling for a “merit-based” system that prioritizes high-skilled workers. Such policies would disproportionately target women, who get just 30 percent of that type of visa, and instead give preference to rich, male tech-inclined applicants, building yet another wall of barriers keeping women out.
The insidiousness of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies can feel overwhelming—but things are far from hopeless, and there’s still so much that individuals can do. If you’re looking for ways to help immigrants in this country, here are three ways to start:
Double Down on the Fight for the Dreamers
More than 800,000 immigrant youth have a temporary status, called deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA), which gives them a work permit and protection from deportation. Trump announced the cancellation of that program in the middle of last year and created a March 5 deadline for its termination—which passed today with no resolution, amidst ongoing legal challenges.
For the past few months, legislators have balked at securing the future of Dreamers, resulting in a knock-out fight that even temporarily shut down the government. Our congresspeople need to hear that we haven't gotten tired. Call your representative and ask them what they're doing to pass a clean Dream Act: one that protects immigrant youth without criminalizing their loved ones.
Oppose More Money for Deportation Agents
Deportations were already at historic levels before Trump came into office. Under the Obama administration, the government was already spending $18 billion on immigration enforcement (which is more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined) to patrol our communities, jail thousands in detention, and process them for removal. Now Trump wants more money for deportation agents, and Congress has to decide whether to give it to him. That should be an easy no.
Show Your Love for Immigrants
It may sound simple, but when the president of the United States uses racist, hateful rhetoric, and when Congress refuses to take action to protect you, it can be easy to feel like the whole country is against you. We know better—but we need to show it. Women in cities across the country are organizing themselves to accompany immigrants to check-ins when they're called in by immigration agents, showing up outside immigration offices with signs expressing support for immigrants, and holding conversations among ourselves about how we can build a stronger women's movement that protects all of us.
We already know that women are powerful. And where we apply our strength makes a difference. These three actions are a starting point, but definitely not the end. If you’ve got those down and are looking for more, finding your local immigrant rights group or a #resist meet-up group near you to get involved is a great fourth step.
Jess Morales Rocketto is the Political Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Chair of We Belong Together, NDWA’s immigration campaign.