Scoundrel Time

Protecting Immigrant Rights

Nevele Otseog

In the resistance, as in so many of our personal battles, we often forget to pause and reflect upon what we have accomplished. But this week marks an important victory—neither the Senate’s revision of the healthcare bill nor the motion to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement has the necessary votes to pass. Your senators are hearing you—Republican senators included. In the last forty-eight hours, Senators Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Susan Collins of Maine have all crossed party lines and stood up for the health and well-being of our citizens. As the HuffPost’s headline read yesterday afternoon, “3 Republican Women Effectively Killed McConnell’s Latest Repeal Plan.” What a wonderful reminder—not only of the power of women in the face of a bill that neglected them—but also of the impact of the resistance.

Of course, now that Donald Trump’s campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare has fallen flat, he and his supporters will be working harder than ever to deliver on his other promises. Already, this administration has branded immigrants—in our nation of immigrants—as the enemy. As Christina Jiménez, executive director and cofounder of United We Dream, explains, “In the history books, our story looks no different from that of the Irish, Germans, or Italians before us. But in the twisted view of Donald Trump and his ardent supporters, we are a menace that needs to be wiped off the face of the country.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests are up, deportation rules are changing, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is under attack.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Advocate for the rights of Americans and for civility toward immigrants. (From Jen Hoffman’s Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience)

  • Call: Your governor’s office (look up).
  • Script: I am deeply concerned about ICE’s increasing aggression in our communities throughout the state. In Virginia, for example, ICE is stopping legal citizens to ask for proof of citizenship because of how they look. This creates a hostile environment for citizens and immigrants–and makes us all less safe. I am calling to request that Gov. [name] contact Homeland Security Sec. Kelly and express his/her desire to “insure domestic tranquility.”

2. Participate in protests, rallies, and other demonstrations for immigrant rights.

3. Stand up for DACA kids. (From Jen Hoffman’s Action Checklist for Americans of Conscience)

4. Stand against the confirmation of Trump’s nominee for head of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

  • Call: Your senators (look up or leave message).
  • Script: Hi. I’m from [ZIP] calling to ask Senator [name] to vote against the confirmation of Lee Francis Cissna as director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Cissna does not support or even recognize the humanity of immigrants, their families, or their communities. He will do nothing but undermine the mission of the USCIS “to secure America’s promise as a nation of immigrants.” Can I count on Senator [name] to vote against his confirmation?

5. Stand against deportation.

6. Stand against anti-immigration bills that disregard the civil and human rights of immigrants.

  • Call: Your senators (look up or leave message).
  • Script: Hi. I’m from [ZIP] calling to ask Senator [name] to to vote against Kate’s Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act. I agree with the American Civil Liberties Union that these bills “are riddled with constitutional violations that completely disregard the civil and human rights of immigrants.” Will Senator [name] commit to protecting the rights of immigrants by voting against these bills?

7. Donate your time, money, and skills to immigrant justice efforts. Here are some great places to start.

  • United We Dream, “the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. Our powerful nonpartisan network is made up of over 100,000 immigrant youth and allies and 55 affiliate organizations in 26 states. We organize and advocate for the dignity and fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status.”
  • UnidosUS, the largest Latino nonprofit advocacy organization in the country: “Together we will build a stronger America by creating opportunities for Latinos. We envision an America where economic, political, and social advancement is a reality for all Latinos, where all Hispanics thrive, and where our community’s contributions are recognized.”
  • The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), which “works to defend and expand the rights of all immigrants and refugees, regardless of immigration status.”
  • The National Immigration Law Center: “Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is one of the leading organizations in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income.”
  • Immigration Advocates Network: “The Immigration Advocates Network (IAN) is a collaborative effort of leading immigrants’ rights organizations designed to increase access to justice for immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. IAN promotes more effective and efficient communication, collaboration, and services among immigration advocates and organizations by providing free, easily accessible and comprehensive online resources and tools.” The IAN also provides valuable resources for pro bono attorneys representing immigrants.

8. Read. Reflect. Resist.

  • Delve into Jodi Paloni’s compilation of readings about the immigrant experience.
  • Reflect upon the words of Ilhan Omar, the first Somali American legislator in our country’s history: “It is complacent to assume that America—The Great Experiment—or any nation will inevitably provide equality. An Athenian lawmaker, Solon, is quoted as saying, ‘Wrongdoing can only be avoided if those who are not wronged feel the same indignation at it as those who are.’ That was 2,500 years ago, yet today we still decide: What does America stand for?”
  • Keep going. We are doing this—we are fighting for a more equitable America.