Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym and Austin City Councilmember Gregorio Casar talk about fear spreading in immigrant communities, as well as the growing resistance to federal immigration policy.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Helen Gym back into this conversation and talk about the effects right now of the fear in communities. I was just talking to a Baltimore city councilman, who said something like 20 to 30 percent of the kids in schools are not coming in, in certain Baltimore schools, because they are terrified, even those that are not undocumented, that they will be mistaken for that and can possibly be taken away. But the issue across the board, landlords threatening to use ICE to evict tenants, businesses not paying, threatening the workers with ICE, can you talk about examples of both of these?
HELEN GYM: Yeah. Well, I mean, one of the things that we’ve had—we recently held a gathering of school district parents to talk specifically about immigration issues that they were facing. And more than 500 people came to that meeting to talk directly with our school officials about what it felt like to be an immigrant family under this administration. And in particular, one of the things we have to remember is that one in 10 American families is of mixed status. So when people talk about going after undocumented folks, what they’re really talking about is going after American families. You’re talking about somebody’s son or daughter or a parent or a sister or brother or a grandparent. So these are very serious issues.
The most things that we’re seeing is that abuses against undocumented folks are overwhelmingly abuses that happen across the spectrum for exploitive purposes. That specifically includes our attention that we’ve been paying to evictions in the city of Philadelphia, where more than one in 14 renters, for example, face eviction in our city. We see unscrupulous landlords going after people, threatening them. We have seen cases—
AMY GOODMAN: So they’ll say, “We’ll bring in ICE if you don’t leave”?
HELEN GYM: We’ve heard cases where people are just being threatened, and asking for documentation when they’re clearly not able or should be in a position to ask for any of those things. And they clearly violate our Commission on Human Relations Acts. We’ve also seen worries about workers being exploited. We passed—we recently passed, for example, a wage theft law in Philadelphia to make sure that workers would be protected. But in particular, people need to understand that the threats against the undocumented are really threats across the spectrum that impact a lot of people in vulnerable areas of American society. And we really need to stand up around housing, around labor laws, school district issues and bias and harassment.
AMY GOODMAN: What about domestic violence, women afraid to come forward?
HELEN GYM: And I think we’ve seen some shocking statistics already out of a number of different cities. We’ll probably be looking at what we’re seeing in Philadelphia. But clearly, women who are victims of rape and sexual assault, women who are afraid to press charges against a spouse or a boyfriend or somebody else, are afraid to go to the police. And this is of vital concern. This is why cities have enacted these policies. They don’t come out of thin air. They actually come out of the fact that we’ve had long experiences doing ICE’s work for them. And when that happens, we suffer tremendous consequences, among them being the fact that immigrants are afraid to report crime, among them that immigrants don’t feel comfortable going to school, and that in an administration that is not making any distinction or practicing any level of discretion between legal and undocumented, between good immigrants and bad immigrants, they are—they are purporting out stories that give you the sense that—you know, that all immigrants are to be worried about, because no one really knows what people’s status are. And that is a very, very complicated thing, not to be left in the hands of individuals. This needs to be an issue. And that’s why we need to push into the political arena, and we need to be very—as much as we are, in the legal arena.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Greg, just briefly—we only have a few seconds—in Austin, you have not just a large undocumented population. You have a large population of Mexican-American citizens and legal residents. What’s been the reaction of the general Latino community in Austin to this clampdown by ICE and the Trump administration?
GREGORIO CASAR: While there has been real fear instilled in the community, and legitimate fear, we’ve also seen a surge of resistance and backlash. And if we want to help the communities that are most targeted and most vulnerable, we have to turn the pain and fear felt in those communities into action. And that’s what you’re seeing in the ICE operations I talked about earlier. Instead of people hiding in their homes after those operations occurred, we had seven days of protesting, all night and all day, and of student walkouts, of Latino communities, be they documented, undocumented or mixed status, standing together to fight back, because, ultimately, what they are trying to do, these deportation actions are not just about xenophobia, they’re about maintaining political power and repressing our communities, and you’re seeing our communities do the exact opposite. And I couldn’t be prouder than to represent folks that are willing to take those sorts of risks.
AMY GOODMAN: And Governor Abbott’s response to your pushback?
GREGORIO CASAR: He has—you know, continues to get his chance to be on Fox News and to be a national voice and to say he’s going to remove elected officials from office. And I don’t know who died and made him Putin, but the fact of the matter is, this is a democratic society, and Texans, I think, do believe in fair representation. So, even though Trump may have won our Electoral College votes, I don’t think he won the hearts and minds of everyday Texans. And I think you saw that come forward after the repressive actions by ICE.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, this is a conversation we will certainly continue. I want to thank you all for being with us. Helen Gym is a Philadelphia city councilmember. Gregorio Casar is the youngest-ever Austin city councilmember. And Michael Wishnie, joining us from Yale University, law professor at Yale Law School.
This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. When we come back, Rebecca Solnit on The Mother of All Questions. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “The Body Electric” by Alynda Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff, singing here at Democracy Now!'s studios. To see our full interview with Alynda and her full performance, go to democracynow.org. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.