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Immigrants Fighting for Sanctuary Cities & Campuses to Protect Millions from Trump Deportation Push

StoryNovember 22, 2016
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There is growing resistance to Trump’s vow to detain and deport millions of people from the United States. Mayors from New York to Chicago to Seattle say they will refuse to cooperate even as Trump promises to cut funds from so-called sanctuary cities. Meanwhile, the movement is growing for “sanctuary campuses.” During his campaign, Trump also said he would reverse President Obama’s executive orders, including DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has shielded 750,000 young people from deportation. We are joined by Denise Vivar, a member of the first undocumented student club at the City University of New York, or CUNY. She drafted the petition for Lehman College to be a sanctuary campus. We also go to Philadelphia to speak with Olivia Vazquez, a recipient of DACA and a youth organizer at the immigrant rights group Juntos, and with Miguel Andrade, an immigration paralegal who has been working with the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office to declare Philadelphia a sanctuary city, or Fourth Amendment city.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Juan González, in for Amy Goodman. Amy is on assignment. We turn now to look at the growing resistance to President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to detain and deport millions of people from the United States. During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to end sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants.

DONALD TRUMP: Block funding for sanctuary cities. We block the funding. No more funding. We will end the sanctuary cities that have resulted in so many needless deaths. Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars, and we will work with Congress to pass legislation to protect those jurisdictions that do assist federal authorities.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Since his election victory, Trump has maintained his promise, telling 60 Minutes he will immediately deport some 3 million people, once in office. But mayors from New York to Chicago to Seattle say they will refuse to cooperate. This comes as a Mexican immigrant who is the father of three U.S.-born children has sought sanctuary from deportation in a Philadelphia church and called on President Obama to stop his deportation and others’. The day before he was slated to be deported, Javier Flores made the choice to go into sanctuary. Before then, he had been detained for 16 months in the Pike County Detention Center. He says he was charged with re-entering the country after he received bad legal advice about how to regularize his residence status. In this video interview shared with Democracy Now!, Flores sits with his five-year-old son Junior, who saw him arrested during the home raid that sent him to detention, and was recently diagnosed with PTSD.

JAVIER FLORES: [translated] This is all very sad. He was recently diagnosed with PTSD by the time I was detained at the Pike County Detention Center. And my oldest daughter, she had to get therapy for 10 days. I have three U.S. citizen children. I made the decision to go into sanctuary for my children and for my family.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, students at as many as 100 colleges and universities across the country held protests last week demanding their schools become sanctuary campuses. Trump vowed to immediately deport up to 3 million people. During his campaign, Trump also said he’d reverse President Obama’s executive orders, which include the program DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has shielded 750,000 young people from deportation.

Well, for more, we’re joined by three guests. Here in New York, Denise Vivar is a member and former president of the Lehman Dream Team, the first undocumented student club at the City University of New York, or CUNY. She drafted the petition for one of its campuses, Lehman College, to be a sanctuary campus. In Philadelphia, Olivia Vazquez, a recipient of DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and a youth organizer at the immigrant rights group Juntos. With her is Miguel Andrade, also with Juntos. He is an immigration paralegal who has been working with the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office to declare Philadelphia a sanctuary city, or Fourth Amendment city.

I want to welcome you all to Democracy Now! And I’d like to start with Miguel Andrade. What is, precisely, Philadelphia promising to do in terms of creating a sanctuary city?

MIGUEL ANDRADE: Sure. And thank you so much for having me. And basically, what Philadelphia stands for as a Fourth Amendment city, as our mayor most recently announced, is that, basically, immigration and local law enforcement will no longer be working in conjunction. So what was happening before was that if somebody who was undocumented was in connection with local law enforcement, they were handing them over to immigration, to ICE. And what—basically, what the community worked for and fought for, not only in Philadelphia, but in so many different localities around the country, was that we wanted to break that tie, because we were seeing that there was a lot of fear and mistrust from immigrant communities to local law enforcement, and people were not coming forward and reporting when they were victims of crimes or when they were witnesses to a crime. So, what a sanctuary city or what a Fourth Amendment city is, like here in Philadelphia, is basically that a city won’t hand over somebody who is undocumented over to immigration, unless immigration actually provides a judicial warrant. We basically want the federal government to actually go out on the streets and do the work that they need to be done, instead of relying on local police officers to do their work for them.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what do you expect will be the response of the city if a Trump administration begins to attempt to cut off federal funds, as they have—as the president-elect has vowed to do?

MIGUEL ANDRADE: That’s actually a really good question. We actually were in a meeting last night that was held by the Office of Immigrant Affairs here in Philadelphia, and the city of Philadelphia is ready to stand by its immigrant communities, because we know that it’s immigrant communities that have made our cities flourish and grow and prosper. And it’s also about the protecting the human rights of our communities. It’s not about just immigrant rights. It’s not just a legal issue. This is a human rights issue. And we need to protect our communities. And we need to see that everybody is a human being. Immigration is not just a legal issue. We need to start treating it as a human issue.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Olivia Vazquez, you are a DACA recipient. You’re one of 750,000 young people who have a temporary relief as a result of President Obama’s executive order. Now, President-elect Trump has said he’s going to prioritize deportations of people who have been convicted of felonies. So that would seem to indicate that he’s not going to go after the DACA young folks. But if he does—if he does rescind the executive order, what does that mean for you?

OLIVIA VAZQUEZ: Hi. Good morning. Thank you for having me here. So I think that, in my case, just like everybody else, it will mean that a lot of us will probably not be able to work. A lot of us support our families. We need driver’s license to drive around. But we also know that the community is ready to resist. We know that it’s going to take time for him to revoke DACA, and we know that our communities will try to—will try to fight as hard as we can to keep it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Denise Vivar, you’ve been leading the movement to create sanctuary campuses. This has now had protests, student protests, around the country last week. Talk about your petition, what you’re trying to do at Lehman College in the Bronx.

DENISE VIVAR: Yeah. Hi. I started the petition after—I am part of the Lehman Dream Team—after the President-elect Trump became the nominee for the presidential. Many of the students were really worried. It wasn’t just that they were worried for themselves; many of them were worried for their parents. They were worried that the fact that DACA, that he vowed to revoke DACA, and they didn’t know what CUNY or what their campuses were going to do for them. It was this uncertainty of not knowing what their future holds. Many of them have to plan their life in two years, just because that’s how much protection DACA grants to students. And many just see the way they were so frustrated in not knowing what the future could be about. It made me frustrated, and it made me overwhelmed, and it made me angry, that I decided to write a petition to the Lehman College president, Cruz, so he could proclaim Lehman College as a sanctuary campus, which means that ICE will not be allowed on campuses. They will not be allowed to conduct raids on students, especially since we don’t know what a Donald Trump presidency means for DACA students, and they’re in the system. So, many of them are afraid that they will use it as—for mass deportations. And we want our campuses to protect us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But tell me a little bit about yourself. Are you undocumented yourself? And where did you come from originally?

DENISE VIVAR: I am—as of now, I am not undocumented. My family and I migrated to the U.S. when I was seven years old.


DENISE VIVAR: From Mexico. And I recently received my green card through a U visa, which is granted to victims of any sort of violence. However, I was undocumented for 14 years. So it has just been a year since I received my green card, in a way I have been protected. However, I don’t believe that U visas should be the way that people fix their statuses.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is the—what is the climate among your fellow students, especially those who are undocumented, since the election? What’s—

DENISE VIVAR: Yeah, many of them are worried that—because, especially at CUNY, where they don’t—we don’t receive financial aid. Many of the scholarships they’ll apply for, only DACA students, but there is various restrictions, as in like you had to be graduated from high school to qualify for it, or you had to be a transfer student from a community college. And many of them worried that their work permit might not allow them to work in future, so they might not afford their education within CUNY, even though CUNY represent—even though CUNY is like one of the most affordable public universities in the U.S. But now, without the work permit, it means that they can’t work. And now they have to focus on education, and now the fear of deportation is there, which really affects their mental health.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Miguel Andrade, I wanted to ask you, in terms of the participation of faith groups in the movement on sanctuary cities in Philadelphia, because obviously that’s the center of the Quakers, who have always been involved in the sanctuary movement for years, what’s been the participation of the churches and other institutions, as well?

MIGUEL ANDRADE: Sure, I mean, for many years we have seen that the—that faith-based institutions have been very strategic and very willing to participate and help marginalized people in this country, and specifically—and also immigrant communities. I think it’s also—I heard one of the local pastors say, when we were having a meeting, that not many long—not many years ago, maybe 2,000 years ago, there was another empire that was trying to tear apart families. So, it’s people who are driven by faith to keep the family unities together and to protect the human rights of people. And we have seen that so many people have been—that are coming out from faith communities to support communities and to also offer sanctuary for people, which is what we’re seeing happening here in Philadelphia with Javier Flores.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I want to go back to Javier Flores, a Mexican-born father of three who’s seeking sanctuary in the Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia.

JAVIER FLORES: [translated] But we have all overcome so much. We have risked our lives for a better future for our children. I think it’s worth it to keep fighting, to keep moving forward, because one day we will defeat all the obstacles and be free with our family.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Miguel Andrade, the importance of this particular—this first test case of Javier—of Javier Flores? What are you—what are you hoping to accomplish in support of him?

MIGUEL ANDRADE: Sure, I mean, Javier comes in a long line of people who have sort of taken up an act of resistance against the oppression and the systemic systems that are tearing apart our families. And Javier is basically demanding—Javier has said it himself, that he’s demeaning President Obama to end his deportation, to put a moratorium on all the other deportations that are happening to all the immigrant communities out here, and to also dismantle and disassemble the deportation machine that this administration has sort of built and maintained. For many people in the immigrant community, President Obama will be going down in history as the deporter-in-chief, and he needs to address this and know that he’s still our president right now, even though we have President-elect Trump, and he—Obama needs to dismantle the deportation machine before handing it over to somebody that has run a campaign based on so much xenophobia and racism.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Olivia Vazquez, a DACA recipient, a message to your fellow DACA recipients across the country, if you want to give one, and also to other college students about what role they can play as Trump assumes the presidency?

OLIVIA VAZQUEZ: So I think that my message would be that to stand up and fight back, as we chant on the streets. I think that more than ever, this—this election has brought a lot of communities together. We know that the immigrant community is not the only one being under attack. We know that we also have our black brothers or sisters that are under attack, or Muslim brothers and sisters, or LGBT communities. Women are being under attack. So, as we say, I think that it is—it is time now that all of us unite and stand up and fight back, fight for our rights, fight for freedom.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: OK. Well, I want to thank you all, Denise Vivar, a student organizing for a sanctuary campus at CUNY, also to Olivia Vazquez and Miguel Andrade in Philadelphia with Juntos, the group that is working on sanctuary city and campuses there.

That does it for today’s show. We will be celebrating Democracy Now!’s 20th anniversary with Harry Belafonte, Noam Chomsky, Patti Smith and more this December 5th in New York City. Visit democracynow.org for details.

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