Undocumented Immigrants Tense on Inauguration Day, But Ready to Resist

Undocumented Immigrants Tense on Inauguration Day, But Ready to Resist

Activists and immigrants from Guatemala and Mexico, many of them undocumented, gathered at a community center in Mount Pleasant, Washington D.C. on Friday morning, preparing to join a resistance march against Donald Trump’s anti-immigration campaign pledges.

Sipping coffee and scribbling protest signs, they spoke of their anxiety over an increasingly hostile mood towards immigrants in America, but also showed off a renewed sense of fight.

“We are feeling ready to resist,” said Hannah Kane, an organizer at Many Languages, One Voice, an advocacy group for immigrant rights. “There’s been a lot of anxiety and a lot of depression, but today there is nothing but ferocity and resistance.”

Undocumented workers, many who had crossed the Mexican border more than 10 years ago, said they were worried President Donald Trump would make good on his campaign promises to deport them. Returning criminals, they said, was fine. But they worried he will also deport law-abiding, tax-paying immigrants. Like many in America, they also feared losing access to healthcare under President Trump.

One man from Guatemala said he’d came with his daughter when she was young. She’d been able to take advantage of Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act to regularize her situation and and was working in New York now.

“She’s worried by what [Trump] said and that he’s going to harass people who aren’t doing anything wrong,” he told Foreign Policy. “We ask God that he changes his mentality.”

They also felt the harsh spotlight of his campaign rhetoric directed at Hispanic immigrants, including his comments about Mexican ‘rapists,’ that encouraged a hostile atmosphere at many campaign rallies this summer.

“Donald Trump doesn’t worry me as much as the people who follow him. The really extremist ones who might take strong actions,” Juan Bruno Avilo Jimenez told FP in Spanish. He came to the United States from Mexico in 2003 and works at a D.C. bar.

But they also expressed optimism that a newfound sense of common cause and resistance could counter Trump’s most divisive campaign promises in the long run.

“The thing that surprised me is the revolution that Donald Trump made,” he said. “He made people wake up. Now we are going to reorganize ourselves [as a community], with many groups fighting to preserve rights.” He added that he has been texting his congressman and encouraging his friends to do the same.

While many see undocumented immigration as a Hispanic issue, he said immigrants without papers are found in nearly every community. They’re now finding common cause.

“Many people are waking up and meeting,” Avilo Jimenez said. “It’s good to know our rights and know what we can do about it.”

Photo credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images