US Muslim and Latino advocates have joined forces in opposing changes to immigration rules by President Donald Trump, bolstering their alliance as they mull the prospect of aggressive restrictions.
In joint press conferences and rallies across the country, they are decrying an action Trump signed to jumpstart construction on a southern border wall. Trump is expected to take steps to stop accepting Syrian refugees, suspend the United States’ broader refugee program for 120 days and suspend issuing visas for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa.
As Trump signed the first actions Wednesday afternoon, the hashtags #NoBanNoWall and #RefugeesWelcome trended on Twitter, and thousands signed a pro-refugee petition by Christian evangelical groups. Muslims, immigrants and their supporters rallied in New York City and elsewhere in protest.
Advocates and activists across racial, religious and ethnic lines have linked before but are now mounting a more unified response.
“An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” said Greisa Martinez, an advocacy director of the United We Dream Network, describing herself as “undocumented, unafraid and here to stay.”
“We believe this is the start of Donald Trump’s mass deportation agenda,” she said.
Trump said Wednesday that his executive actions on immigration show that the U.S. will get back “control of its border.” But the flow of immigrants at the Mexican border has declined, and immigrant and refugee advocates call the moves and plans reckless, dangerous and un-American — and say that actions taken against one group affect them all.
The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter questioned whether the signed actions would create more security in the U.S.
“These executive orders will not make our country safer, rather will produce more xenophobia in our society,” Dawud Walid said in a statement.
Michigan has one of the nation’s largest Muslim communities and thousands of Middle Eastern refugees have settled there. A draft order indicates Trump plans to suspend issuing visas to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries for at least 30 days, halt the Syrian refugee program and stop admitting refugees from other countries for 120 days.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops condemned plans for a wall. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, who was recently appointed by Pope Francis, tweeted: “A fearful nation talks about building walls and is vulnerable to con men. We must challenge the fear before we are led into darkness.”
Trump also signed an action that would block federal grants from so-called sanctuary cities, where local police don’t enforce federal immigration laws.
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of National Immigration Law Center, said her organization has drafted lawsuits challenging Trump’s actions and that law firms have offered “pro bono support.”
In New Mexico, which has the nation’s highest percentage of Hispanic residents, activists worried the executive actions would hurt all Latinos and Mexican-Americans. The Albuquerque-based immigrant rights group El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos and the Islamic Center of New Mexico held a press conference along the city’s historic Camino Real.
“When they go after Latinos, they go after all Latinos,” Ralph Arellanes, chairman of the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico, said. “It’s not like people are walking on the streets and they have identification that says they’ve been here four centuries, or three centuries, or two centuries or one century.”
Javier Gonzales, mayor of Santa Fe, New Mexico, vowed to fight any effort to make the city hostile to immigrants. Santa Fe recently renewed its commitment as a sanctuary city.
“There is no presidential executive order that will ever change our values of being a welcoming and inclusive city. It’s what’s made our city thrive for more (than) 400 years,” wrote Gonzales, whose ties to the city go back to 17th century Spanish settlers.
A coalition of Muslim, Latino and civil rights leaders also held a press conference in Atlanta to persuade Georgians to denounce Trump’s immigration and refugee policies.
Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of the Georgia branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said they’re speaking out before some of the actions have even been issued in hopes that “maybe we can make the horrible just bad.”
Mexican-American activist DeeDee Garcia Blase said Trump’s moves have increased anxiety in Phoenix because of Arizona laws that targeted immigrants. “Everybody is bracing themselves,” Blase said. “We are telling undocumented immigrants: Don’t sign anything.”
Samia Assed, 51, of Albuquerque, participated in the recent Women’s March on Washington.
“I don’t think there is anything that’s going to come out of this as far as countering terrorism,” said the third-generation Palestinian-American. “The fear is that it will trickle down to everyday life and every different aspect of Muslim life in America.”