Donald Trump’s draconian plan to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants and deport them suggests turning America into a police state and likely confronting strong resistance from their families and friends, reports Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein
If Donald Trump is serious about trying to deport many if not all of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, he may face much more resistance than he expects, as I witnessed during a post-election protest by some 50 young Latino students who took their anti-Trump chants to San Francisco’s bustling Mission District.
I spoke with them aboard a city bus on the way to a march and spontaneous all-city student protest at City Hall. I got a sense of their fear and their commitment. They were focused and clear about what was on their minds.
Some were undocumented, or had parents and friends and relatives who were undocumented. Some people whom they knew had already gone into hiding. But the students voiced a fierce determination to say no to Trump who they said had repeatedly degraded their families, the entire Mexican race and every Muslim in America.
I spoke first to Gabriella, a high school senior at City Arts and Technology. She was carrying a sign that said, “We will not go along with fascism.” She angrily asserted, “We’re doing this in protest of the election of Donald Trump. Our schools are all gathering to protest about this. We’ve been talking about it since […] the election. We are very upset and we will not continue to be oppressed by the system, and by a man that targets immigrants, people of color, and poor people. I’m afraid that it will affect everybody I know. …
“Not only the minorities, but everybody. He doesn’t have the requirements to be a president. He’s a corrupt man that should not be president. Personally I have a lot of family members that do not have papers, but they are good people and they work hard to be citizens. It’s not fair for a man to try to deport them.”
I asked Gabriella what she would be doing if this was just a regular day in her life. “I would be studying, working hard,” she said. “I want to be a nurse. I want to be somebody to make my family proud and provide for my family. We all just want to be good people and work hard.”
Then I spoke with Hyro Kirk, a senior at the June Jordan School for Equity, named after the late poet and award-winning African-American essayist, June Jordan. “I’m on this bus going to City Hall to make people feel safe in the city, because I don’t think people should be scared,” Kirk said.
I asked the high school senior if he too has friends and family who are now frightened. He answered: “Yes, people are expressing their fears all the time. And it scares me because, my family, some of them don’t have papers. And I don’t want to see them going back to a country that’s like a third world country. I just feel like this shouldn’t be happening to Latinos who helped build this country.”
I asked Maylee Rubio, another June Jordan senior, what she felt about the election of Trump and why it had happened. She said, “I feel really disgusted and offended that he has the nerve to call us illegal immigrants, rapists, drug dealers. It’s just disgusting how he sees America like that. I worry about my family … and a lot of my friends, because a lot of my family is undocumented. And they came from one of the most dangerous places in Mexico. And if they go back I’m afraid for their lives.”
Ben Rosen, a 12th-grade teacher at City Arts and Tech who accompanied the students. Said he joined them on their walkout because “I can’t sit back while this is going on. … I was horrified by the results of the election. I work with these kids day in and day out and it’s what gives me hope. They are the most beautiful, righteous, intelligent people I know. And I refuse to get used to whatever this new norm is supposed to be. And this is what gives me hope, these youth.”
I asked Rosen how the Trump victory affected the dialogue in the classroom and his ability to teach. “Well,” he said, “my students are scared. People are really scared and not sure where to go from here. And I think it’s our job as educators not to be neutral, to take a stand. This is not a time to stand back and be on the sidelines. This is a time to help our students understand the danger that’s real, and empower them to stand up for themselves. It’s the only thing that’s going to actually make a difference, now.”
One student, who preferred we not use her name, added “The whole controversial issue that the immigrants take jobs from Americans … is not true,” she said. “We actually help and create more jobs for a variety of different people. And, for me, what really gets me really, really angry is that they’re telling us we have a choice [about whether to leave our countries or not]. We don’t choose to be here. We leave, our parents leave our homelands, to create a better future. Because in our homelands there’s lots of violence and things that we have to run away from,” she said. “If it wasn’t for our parents moving here, who knows, we might not even be alive at this point in time.”
She concluded, “I just want to say a couple last words to the Trump supporters, to everyone who voted for Trump. I wanted them to know that this is not their country. Before America came along, this was Mexico’s land. Before the Europeans came on this land, it was Native Americans’ land. This is not your country, so stop thinking you can just run us over like that.”
During the march, another student had a brief exchange with an angry white male Trump supporter. When I spoke with her afterwards, she said, “What they don’t know, or seem to care about is that they’re breaking families apart. Families are fleeing back to their countries where it is dangerous. Their kids are terrified, everybody is terrified … but we’re not going to keep taking this anymore. We’re through with this. We don’t want Trump as the president. He’s only representing the One Percent. All these minorities out here are fighting back. We will be resilient and fight back until our voices are heard.”
If Trump thinks that it will be easy to round up what he calls the “bad hombres” and the rest of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, he may discover that many of them — and their families and friends — believe this land is just as much their land as it is his land.